Visiting the memorial in the Cork graveyard, John Fenton is still angry over his son’s death in the Iraq war.
Returning to his native Cork from New Jersey, after his son, Matthew’s untimely death, Fenton is angry about the United States’ reasons for going to war and at the fact that when his son signed on in September 2000 it was a much quieter world.
The Irish Examiner reports that Fenton has found a little solace in the fact that their former hometown of Little Ferry, New Jersey, has received the go-ahead from Congress to rename the post office in his son’s honor.
Fenton told the Examiner he is “still angry about the causes of the war which cost Matthew and thousands of others their lives.”
He said, “The only worthwhile thing that came of the whole Iraq war was the removal of Saddam Hussein but there had to be some other way, my son and thousands of others shouldn’t have died to achieve it."
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The grieving father also laments that when his son volunteered to join the army, at the age of 18, in September 2000, the world was a much quieter place. One year on, the 9/11 attacks prompted the US military’s campaign in Afghanistan and then Iraq.
Before shipping out, Matthew told his mother, Diane, that he would email her every day. His aunt and godmother, Allison Valentin, told NJ.com they realized something was wrong when “one night he didn’t email”.
His father explained how his son, a Sergeant in the Marines, was fatally injured in Fallujah, Iraq.
“He was a gunner on a Humvee protecting a convoy when a car driven by a suicide bomber rammed into them and he took a piece of shrapnel to the head," explained John.
Nine days after the attack his son died, on 5th May 2006, at Bethesda military hospital in Maryland, Virginia.
He continued, "They performed emergency brain surgery in Iraq, his whole frontal lobe was removed, and after other surgery he really had no brain left. They told us they could keep him like that for 20 years but we didn’t want that and he wouldn’t have wanted it.”
"It was a horrific scene in the head injury ward, some of the young men and women were going to be half-paralyzed, it was nine days of nightmare scenarios.”
Speaking to NJ.com after his death, his family and friends spoke about Matthew’s drive and his lifelong ambition to serve his country.
His mother Diane said, “He always liked playing with toy guns…He wanted to be a Marine because he wanted to be the best.
"That's what made him Matthew," she said. "He volunteered to go…He wanted to be with the other Marines."
Matthew’s father, John, was born in Cork City but moved to the United States when he was just two. In 2008 he came home to Cork as he found it too difficult to return to his position as a clerk in the US postal service following his son’s death.
After his son’s death, John lobbied his local Congressman to have a federal building named after his son. Once the campaign got started he handed it over to some of Matthew’s friends and left for Ireland.
This week John heard the good news. He told the Examiner, “I have an email alert set up to tell me whenever he is mentioned in news articles, and I got a message on Tuesday to tell me President Obama had signed the bill into law.”
Steve Rothman, the New Jersey congressman who sponsored the bill called Matthew a true American hero and hopes “the post office will stand as a testament to his bravery and sacrifice”.
The post office will now be renamed the Sergeant Matthew J Fenton Post Office this spring or summer.
"My son would have been 30 on January 17. That will be tough. It’s good that he will be remembered for a long time, every parent who loses a child wants them to be remembered,” said John.
The grieving father attends meetings with Anam Cara, a group for bereaved parents, in Cork. Although he is still angry, and dealing with the loss of his son, he believes he’s making progress.
“They say that time heals and for the first time I think it’s true. If you asked me this time last year, I probably wouldn’t have agreed but although things will never be the same, my head is clearing and there is progress."
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