From Eagle Scout to a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate with a degree in aeronautical engineering, Roland completed difficult tasks with a single-mindedness and sense of humor that impressed his peers and superiors.
So, it was no surprise to many when he completed the rigorous special tactics training program in 2012 to become one of the few special tactics officers in the Air Force. He was trained as a military static line jumper, free fall jumper, an Air Force combat scuba diver, and a joint terminal attack controller. He deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Africa.
Even in his short time of service, the captain was a decorated veteran, earning the Bronze Star medal with Valor device. With this Silver Star medal, he now joins an elite group of more than 70 Airmen who received the nation’s third highest medal for gallantry in action since 9/11. Thirty-five of those medals were presented to his small community of special tactics Airmen.
While a Silver Star medal solidifies Roland’s legacy of valor, it won’t define the memory of Roland. To many in the special tactics community who knew him, those few seconds of heroism represent a lifetime of character that continues to positively impact others.
“He was loved and respected and was good at what he did. As parents, we can think of no greater tribute,” Mark Roland said. “Matthew was a true patriot; he loved what he was doing and believed in it.”
In the end, Roland was, and always will be, a man who sacrificed his life so that others may live.