SPOKANE, Wash. — Staff Sgt. Matthew H. Stiltz was remembered Saturday as a dedicated serviceman who loved the Army.
"My brother Matt was a soldier," said Stiltz's brother, Jeff Stiltz. "That was his life and he would do it again if he had the chance. I will always remember the brother I grew up with, but I will honor him for the soldier he was."
Stiltz, 26, was killed Nov. 12 by indirect fire in Zerok, in the Paktika province of eastern Afghanistan. He discovered his calling shortly after graduating from Shadle Park High School in 2005, when he joined the U.S. Army.
"Matt needed the Army as much as the Army needed him," Jeff Stiltz said. "Because of the Army, he was very confident, prideful, dedicated, honorable, brave, strong and brotherly. He was a man that found the job he loved, the wife he loved, the friends he loved, the dog he loved, and the life he loved, and it radiated from him."
Stiltz, an infantryman, served two tours in Iraq and was serving his first tour in Afghanistan when he was killed.
One year for Halloween, the brothers dressed up as soldiers, camouflaging their faces with markers, said Jeff Stiltz, who served in the Air Force. They grew up playing Army together. "One thing most of you don't know is that I was actually the first person my brother shot," he said. "And I still have the scar on my leg from the BB gun to prove it."
The two went their own ways when they enlisted, but Jeff Stiltz said they were still close.
"My brother and I had a very good understanding of each other," he said. "We respected each other and we didn't need to say much. I was the eyes in the sky, while he was the boots on the ground."
Before the memorial service, hundreds attended a graveside service at Greenwood Memorial Terrace that included full military honors. Each member of Stiltz's family placed a rose on top of the casket before it was slowly lowered into the ground, and the procession moved to the memorial service at Shiloh Hills Fellowship in north Spokane.
Stiltz was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant. He also was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the NATO Medal, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Jeff Buchanan said Stiltz, who had both a serious side and a sense of humor, led by example, excelled at his duties and was respected by his comrades.
"Matt Stiltz walked uprightly," Buchanan said. "He did his duty. If you think about it, he enlisted in the Army in a time of war and he selflessly served every one of us while doing so. He came to his county's aid when his country needed it."
Stiltz was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Riley, Kan.
As of Wednesday, 2,029 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, according to a count by the Associated Press, and 17,992 have been wounded.
Family members received Gold Star Lapel Buttons indicating their loss, as well as Stiltz's dog tags. Spokane Mayor David Condon, Fairchild Air Force Base Commander Col. Brian Newberry and a military liaison representing U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers attended the services.
A slide show at the memorial service included pictures of Stiltz smiling as an infant, playing video games with his siblings, proudly wearing his uniform, and at his 2009 wedding to Brooke Stiltz, who he met while he was stationed at Fort Riley.
Shiloh Hills Pastor Ron Anderson read from the Bible and led the attendees in prayer, encouraging them to find comfort in Stiltz's memory.
"He loved the adventure," he said of Stiltz. "He loved the ideals. He loved the United States of America. He joined to fight for freedom. It wasn't long before he was face to face with the reality of what that cost was all about."
A good friend of Stiltz's was killed in Iraq, and Stiltz wore a silver band on his wrist that was inscribed with his friend's name to honor his sacrifice, Anderson said. Stiltz was wearing it when he was killed.
"He put his life at risk for those at home," Anderson said of Stiltz. "He defended our nation. He defended our freedom. He defended those he loved halfway around the world."