Marine pilot killed in helicopter crash remembered for his larger-than-life personality and giving spirit
By CHRISTIAN MENNO | The Intelligencer | Published: April 18, 2019
DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — Nearly everything about U.S. Marine Maj. Matthew Wiegand was big, according to loved ones.
That included his imposing physical frame, his boisterous personality and especially his generous, loving heart.
The imprint Wiegand left on his friends, family and community was on display Wednesday at Abington Presbyterian Church where his life was celebrated during a funeral service attended by hundreds. Wiegand, 34, of Horsham, was killed March 30 in a helicopter crash while participating in a training mission in Yuma, Arizona.
His co-pilot in the AH-1Z Viper, Travis Brannon, 30, of Nashville, Tennessee, also was killed.
Lifelong friends who knew Wiegand during his days at Hatboro-Horsham High School, along with fellow Marines, shared their memories during the service.
Wiegand had a keen sense of the meaningful things and had an intensity for life, said friend JD McCabe.
"His laugh would shake walls and his bear hug would lift you off the ground," he added.
In preparing to eulogize his friend, Jeffrey Beck listened to voicemails from Wiegand still saved on his phone.
"He showed us what friendship looks, sounds and feels like," he said.
And in a moment that drew laughs from those packing the pews, Beck added "If you were hanging with Matt, you were either all in or in the way."
For Maj. Brent Emery, the fact that he and several others in the church not only considered Wiegand a friend — but their best friend — was a true indicator of his special nature.
"I will continue to live by his example and honor his memory," Emery said.
A ravenous Philly sports fan and a talented lacrosse player and golfer, Wiegand also enjoyed playing guitar. But his passion, loved ones seem to agree, was flying.
Joining the Marines in 2008 after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Wiegand would log nearly 2,000 hours in the air, participating in operations in Japan, the Philippines and South Korea and receiving multiple commendation medals.
Loved ones on Wednesday spoke about his devotion to his wife, Katrina, and his recent role as an "at times reluctant, but doting dog dad" to Charlotte, which the couple called "Charlie."
Wiegand also is survived by parents Margaret and retired U.S. Navy Capt. Roy A. Wiegand, former commanding officer of Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base where his son developed his love of aviation, according to an obituary.
He will be buried in August with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The cause of the helicopter crash is under investigation.
"Matt was a hero," Beck said. "Simple as that."