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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Slain Marine based at Kane'ohe

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Matthew Clark

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Matthew Clark was probably the smartest and funniest person that Gregory Vescovo ever knew.

"He could have fun wherever he was, doing anything," Vescovo said. "Wherever he was, he was always making people laugh."

There was also the serious side of Vescovo's friend, and recently, worry, as a deployment to western Iraq wore on for the Kane'ohe Bay Marine.

"He called me about a week and a half ago," Vescovo said. "He sounded a little nervous because apparently a few weeks ago a car had exploded in front of him. That'd be pretty nerve-wracking."

Clark, a 22-year-old lance corporal, was killed last Thursday in Haditha when a roadside bomb exploded near a Humvee he was riding in, Vescovo said.

The St. Louis man's death less than two weeks before Christmas is the 18th for the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment since late September, an increase over most deployments by Hawai'i Marines to the same region of Iraq.

Attacks on coalition forces have reached their highest level since pre-sovereignty in April of 2004, with about 650 attacks per week between mid-August and Nov. 10, according to a Pentagon report.

The report to Congress, titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," said in the past three months, the total number of attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces increased 22 percent over the previous three-month period, with 54 percent of all attacks in Baghdad and western Anbar province.

Frank Weber knew both Clark and Clark's father, Ken, who died of lung cancer three months after the son graduated from high school. Weber said the latest loss "is real rough."

"Matt was just a super, super young man. Mature beyond his years," said Weber, who also lives in the St. Louis area.

"He handled his father's illness and death, and he was there with him like an adult would have been," Weber said. "Even though his father didn't want him to miss things at school, he often passed up school functions to spend time with him."

The son, like his father, decided to go into the Marine Corps.

Vescovo, 21, lived next door to Matt Clark as he was growing up. He said Clark thought over joining the Corps "from every angle," researching the service and buying books on the service.

"He scored very high on the military aptitude test, but he was the type of person who, if he was going to do something, he was going to go all the way," Vescovo said. "And in his mind, that meant being in the infantry."

Marine Corps Base Hawai'i said Clark was a mortar man. He joined the Marines in May 2004 and reported to Hawai'i that October. The single Marine, who had a girlfriend in New York, was deployed to Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, from May 2005 to January 2006. He deployed to Iraq in September.

Weber said a funeral is scheduled for Clark on Saturday at the Basilica Cathedral of St. Louis. Clark had worked at St. Joseph's church and was an altar boy there before joining the Corps. He had considered joining the priesthood before going into the service, Vescovo said.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.