Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fallen Largo soldier speaks from the grave on war in Afghanistan

LARGO — Late on the morning of June 4, Cheryl Sitton's cell phone rang.

On the line was her son, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton. The call came from Afghanistan, where he was nearing the end of his third tour.

"Mom," he said, "I just sent a letter to Congressman Young."

Sitton didn't tell her what he had written to U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. He didn't have to. For months, Sitton had told her, his platoon of 25 soldiers had been mandated to patrol empty fields and compounds littered with explosives. No one had told him why. When Sitton objected, which he had over and over, superior officers told him to quit complaining. His men's spirits were dwindling, as was their focus. His brigade, he estimated, was averaging one amputee a day.

"I don't know if he got it or not," Sitton told his mother of the letter. "But I sent it."

"Good for you, son," she said. "Hopefully, there's going to be a change."

Weeks later, Sitton told his aunt he no longer thought he or his men would live through their tour. That was the last time Sitton spoke to his family. On Aug. 2, he stepped on one of those explosives and died. He was 26.

On Thursday morning in Washington, one of Young's staffers read aloud Sitton's letter in a congressional hearing where he announced that after a decade of war, he believed it was time for America's soldiers to leave Afghanistan.

Far away from the nation's capital, on a quiet Largo road where every lawn is pierced with an American flag, Mrs. Sitton held the same letter and sobbed.

"He knew his job was on the line when he wrote the letter," she said, slumped in a chair in her front yard. "But he knew he needed to do it, because nothing else was working."

Mrs. Sitton and her husband, Steve, are blue-collar, regular people. They both work at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. She works the graveyard shift as a dispatcher. He's a mechanic. They raised four kids in the same gray house in which Mrs. Sitton was raised. An oak her father planted more than 30 years ago towers over the roof.

Thousands of parents just like them have buried thousands of young soldiers just like their son. The Sittons know that the pain from his death is no different than that of all those other families. But they also know what could result from their son's death could be much different.

They don't blame anyone for what happened, and they want no vengeance. Nothing, they know, will assuage their hurt.

What the Sittons want is change.

No one else, they say, should die the way their son did. Their lives now revolve around ensuring that his death will spare other soldiers from the same fate.

"Matt started something he truly believed in," Mrs. Sitton said. "And it's our job to finish it."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (727) 893-8472 or jcox@tampabay.com.

Fallen Largo soldier speaks from the grave on war in Afghanistan 09/20/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 20, 2012 11:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    Minnesota Twins pitcher Adalberto Mejia, right, makes the tag at the plate on Tampa Bay Rays' Steven Souza Jr. who attempted to score on a runner's fielders' choice in the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 27, 2017, in Minneapolis. AP Photo/Jim Mone) MNJM103
  2. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  3. Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

    Music & Concerts

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel the Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, a publicist said. He was 69.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  4. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85

    Ml

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)
  5. Trump to decide next week whether to quit Paris climate agreement

    Environment

    TAORMINA, Italy —President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

    President Donald Trump, right, arrives to a G7 session with outreach countries in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday. Climate and trade were sticking points at the two-day summit in Taormina, Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)