Feb. 18, 1981 to Mar. 4, 2002
Matthew Allen Commons was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and grew up mostly in Boulder City, a suburb of Las Vegas. He was a cut-up who did well in school. He was secretary of the senior class and one of the “rah rah boys,” a boisterous group that dressed in drag to cheer at high school games.
He played soccer and went to summer camps, including one at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he got a taste of military life and liked it.
Commons volunteered for military service with the United States Army, July 7, 2000. He completed basic training and advanced individual training in the military operational specialty of infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia. He volunteered for the second time to attend Airborne School and completed his airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia. On April 4, 2001, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.
In the early dawn of March 4, 2002, Commons was part of Operation Anaconda, the first major battle in Afghanistan and the first that included non-special forces. A Razor 3 Chinook helicopter had been hit by enemy fire along a desolate 10,500-foot frozen ridge of Takur Ghar in Shah-e-Kot Valley near the Pakistan border and the men inside were trapped in a fierce battle. Rescuers sped to the site, but as the U.S. Army MH-47E Chinook rescue helicopter hovered over a ridge looking for the downed Razor 3, a rocket propelled grenade slammed into the Chinook’s right engine while machine gun fire ripped through the fuselage. Within seconds, Commons and three others were killed as the rescue helicopter crashed to earth and the men jumped out directly into enemy fire.
As a Ranger, Corporal Commons distinguished himself as a member of the Army’s premier light-infantry unit and was a highly trained and motivated soldier. He was posthumously promoted to corporal from private first class.