Born to be a hero

ARLINGTON – He’ll be remembered as the guy with the contagious laugh who loved fast cars, model planes, barbecue and baseball.

Hero’s a word that comes up, too, and not just for his military service.

Family and friends shared their memories of Army Sgt. Charles E. Matheny IV, 23, of Arlington, a few days after he was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

His father, Charles Matheny III, described how his son kept a cool head in a crisis even at the age of 15. The two were at home alone when the father suddenly felt ill.

Army Sgt. Charles E. Matheny IV re-enlisted and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

“I was having a heart attack,” the father said.

He gave his son the car keys not knowing if his son even knew how to drive.

“We flew,” he said fondly. “He stopped for nothing.”

The quick trip to Cascade Valley Hospital saved his life.

“That’s why he’s your hero, in more ways than one,” said Lisa Matheny, the soldier’s stepmother.

Even a brief falling out could not keep the father and son apart for long, she said.

“Their eyes just lit up; they sparkled. They were just great in each other’s company,” Lisa Matheny said.

Memorial service

The family of Army Sgt. Charles E. Matheny IV has scheduled a viewing from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at Price Helton Funeral Home, 702 Auburn Way N., Auburn.

A memorial service is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday, also at the Price Helton Funeral Home, followed by the burial about 12:30 p.m. at Tahoma National Cemetery, 18600 SE 240th St., Kent. The service is open to the public.

“He was my best friend,” the father said.

The soldier’s mother, Dedi Noble of Camano Island, also shared a close bond with her son.

“He was every mother’s dream,” Noble said.

The military life seemed almost predestined for him. His great-grandfather, Charles Matheny Sr., served on a submarine in World War I. His grandfather, a P-47 pilot, flew 86 missions over Europe during World War II. His parents served in the army in the 1970s in the 4th Infantry, 704th Maintenance Battalion, the same battalion Charles Matheny IV would join for his two deployments to Iraq.

His mother’s father also served as a U.S. Marine in World War II and a combat medic in the Korean War, and later became a master sergeant in the Air Force.

Even as a young boy, Charles Matheny IV told his mother he was going to join the Army.

As proud as she was of the family’s military heritage, her instincts as a mother alerted her to the dangers.

“Oh, no, you’re not,” Noble remembers telling him.

But he was determined. After graduating from Arlington High School in 2000, he enlisted one month before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Years of tinkering with hot rods, including his beloved Mustang GT convertible, came in handy as he became an Army mechanic.

He formed tight bonds with his unit, said Shamara High, who met both her husband and Matheny while serving with them during Matheny’s first tour in Iraq.

News of his death hit hard.

“When I called the other guys in (their) squad, they just fell apart,” High said.

Her husband, Sgt. Gary High, was Matheny’s best friend.

“They would try to beat each other in barbecue,” she said.

Sara Ward, whose husband, Sgt. Heath Ward, also was a close friend, said she’ll always remember Matheny’s good humor.

“He made everyone laugh,” she said. Even if he told an old joke, “you still laughed because he was laughing.”

His mother agreed.

“He could make you so angry you’re ready to spit nails and then turn around and have you rolling on the floor laughing when you knew he needed a spanking,” Noble said.

His high school art teacher, Michael Addington, remembered Matheny as an A student.

“He was one of those part-of-the-solution kind of kids,” Addington said.

Matheny’s father is still angry about the Army’s slow response to get proper medical treatment for his son when he tore a ligament in his knee during his first deployment. He eventually had surgery, spent some time at home and re-enlisted.

“The point is, in spite of how (the Army) treated him, he was the best soldier to the end,” his father said.

His mother was impressed with his dedication, how he as a single man would volunteer for missions so that men with families wouldn’t have to.

“I can’t tell you how proud I was, how he grew as a man,” Noble said.

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or smorris@

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