An Illinois police officer is drawing praise after sharing his personal wartime experiences with Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner, who was killed February 6th while executing a search warrant.
The Aurora Police Department posted the message, written by Officer Josh Horton, to its Facebook page on Monday.
Horton served with Rittner in the Marines in 2004, and was nearly killed during a fatal mortar attack.
“We’ve all seen the Officer Down Memorial Pages, and while they are an outstanding, lasting tributes to our fallen brothers and sisters, you don’t really get to know who the officers are as people.
I first met Matt in 2003 when we were assigned to the same platoon in Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines. He was a seldom-serious college kid with a bigger-than-life attitude. When we were called up for active duty for Iraq in 2004, his demeanor completely changed. He was still a wise-cracking smart ass, but his attitude toward our mission became rock-solid. He volunteered for every additional training, from combat lifesaving to Humvee driver. During the long, long weeks of training, with almost no time off, Matt was always telling jokes and singing horrible renditions of popular songs to boost morale in the platoon.
When we finally deployed to Iraq, he became one of the most dependable Marines in my squad. He often volunteered to walk “point,” one of the most dangerous jobs for an infantryman, as he would be the first to trigger an IED, or be the first hit in an ambush. He also didn’t back down from driving the Humvees, another death sentence. See, we were originally supposed to get armored Humvees, but the ones we ended up with were nicknamed “suicide sleds” for a reason. They had no armor, and the driver would be unable to get out if we had been hit by RPG fire or a roadside bomb. Still, Matt never passed the buck to someone else and did the job himself.
Those were day to day activities that could be looked at as “just doing his job,” but a few specific cases of Matt’s bravery and selflessness stand out to me. Once, Matt and several other Marines from our squad went out under sniper fire to rescue one of our Iraqi interpreters that had been wounded, and he did it with his trademark grin on his face. Then, on the night I was wounded, Matt helped keep me from bleeding out by putting a tourniquet on my leg, and cracking jokes to keep me from going into shock. He then helped carry me through enemy fire and secured the landing zone for the helicopter that flew me to safety. I literally owe my life to him.
After our unit rotated home, he worked as a police officer in some of Milwaukee’s worst neighborhoods, earning two Medals of Valor, one for rushing into a burning building to rescue trapped residents, another for rescuing hostages from a gunman. By now, it shouldn’t surprise anyone reading this to hear Matt died as he lived, a hero. On the morning he was killed, Matt was serving as a member of Milwaukee PD’s SWAT team. They were serving a warrant on an individual who had been manufacturing and delivering narcotics. They also knew this individual to have a serious stockpile of weapons. When the team’s breacher couldn’t get through the door, Matt rushed forward to assist him, and was fatally struck by several rounds fired by the bad guy.
I struggle to try to make sense of it, as I think of how many doors Matt rushed through in Iraq, with bad dudes armed with explosives and machines guns waiting on the other side, to come through it all unscathed, only to have his life ended by an American citizen in his own hometown. But that is how life works sometimes, and I can only smile when I remember how full his short life was, and what an example he remains.
Matt Rittner is survived by his wife and son.”