Sgt Matthew J. Sandri was born on September 1, 1979, and was only 24 years old when he was killed in action on March 20, 2004. He was the eldest son of Bob and Annette Sandri of Shamokin, PA, and grandson of Howard and Theresa Sandri of Shamokin, and Joseph and Mary Zukus of Mount Carmel, PA. Matt had two sisters, Julie and Lydia, and a brother, Blake. He spent his entire life calling the Shamokin – Mount Carmel area his home.
A young man determined to succeed in endeavors that interested him, Matt learned to read by age 4. He showed great talent drawing with pencil, building models with construction blocks, and had a great interest in all things military. He excelled as a student in math, art and the life sciences. He graduated from Shamokin High School in June, 1997. In September of 1997 he enrolled as a candidate for a Bachelor of Science Degree in biology at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, earning 77 credits toward that degree. He enjoyed spending time at the beach and tent camping in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. He played varsity football, enjoyed skateboarding and weightlifting, and looked forward to frequent road trips in his Jeep Wrangler.
On August 21, 1998, Matt fulfilled an ambition of his youth and volunteered to serve his country as a soldier in the United States Army Reserves. He graduated Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on November 19, 1998. He then attended Advanced Individual Training at US Army Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Virginia, and graduated with Honors as a Food Service Specialist (92G) on February 5, 1999. He was then assigned to HSC 365th Engineer Battalion (Heavy) in Schuylkill Haven, PA. He also returned to Bloomsburg University to continue his studies.
In November 2001, Matt interrupted his schooling to enlist for Active Duty and reported to the Medical Academy of the Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to reclassify as a Combat Medic (91W). He graduated on April 9, 2002, then immediately attended Basic Airborne School at Fort Benning, GA, graduating on May 10. On May 24, he reported to the 82nd Airborne Division Replacement Detachment at Fort Bragg, NC and on June 13, 2002, was assigned to Treatment Platoon, Charlie (Medical) Company, 82nd Forward Support Battalion.
Less than one month later, on July 10, 2002, Matt deployed with his Unit, as part of Task Force Panther, 3 BCT, 82nd ABN DIV to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Matt worked in the Advanced Trauma and Life Support Unit, in the patient hold, and provided medical support on missions. The Company also conducted MEDCAP or Medical Civilian Assistance Programs for the local population, many of whom had never seen a doctor in their lifetime.
In November 2002, Matt was hand-picked by the Company leadership to man the aid station at FOB Salerno, near Khowst. The 82nd had taken the position over from SF in July, and the FOB was built up to Company size by then. Conditions were spartan and the medical complement was small. Matt performed multiple duties at Salerno: as NCOIC of the aid station (even though he was E-4), as an additional operation room tech for the FST, and as an assistant flight medic for the MEDEVAC Team. The 3rd Brigade returned to Fort Bragg on January 5, 2003.
On August10, 2003 the 3rd Brigade again deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In February 2004, Matt appeared before a Promotion Board, scored a perfect 150 points and was asked to assume Squad Leader position in the EVAC Platoon. On the evening of March 20, 2004, Matt and LTC Mark Taylor were killed in action by enemy rocket fire that targeted the medical facility at FOB Sainte Mere Eglise, (Camp Fallujah) near Al Fallujah, Iraq. Six other medics were wounded. Matt was posthumously promoted to Sergeant.
The Taylor / Sandri Medical Training Center, a state of the art medical training facility at Fort Bragg, NC, was dedicated on 12 December, 2008, in honor of Matt and Doc Taylor. The TSMTC is the Division’s primary facility for medical education and training, offering courses including: National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), Medical Education and Demonstration of Individual Competence (MEDIC), Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Saver (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Saver (PALS), Brigade Combat Team Trauma Training (BCT3), Critical Care Evacuation Skills Course (CCESC), Medical Trauma Lanes, and Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB) Training. Located on Gruber Road, the facility’s dynamic instructional platform is used by the 82nd Airborne Division, 18th Airborne Corps, and the Special Forces community.
On April 29, 2009, the Paratroopers of Charlie Company, 82nd BSB dedicated the “Sandri Medical Treatment Facility” at FOB Hammer, Baghdad, Iraq. As the most advanced military medical treatment facility within 38 kilometers by air, the SMTF was the only medical treatment facility serving the 3rd Brigade Combat Team with a full complement of dental, laboratory, x-ray, nursing, physical therapy, mental health, preventative medicine, and medical supply services in addition to its advanced trauma life support capability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. LTC Greg Boyd, 82nd BSB Commander, spoke at the dedication ceremony:
“Matt’s calling as a combat medic was not an accident. He exemplified all that is honorable about serving in the military. His squad leader SSG Tracy Devault said it best— ‘He was calm under pressure, methodical. He never appeared nervous or intimidated by what came through the trauma room—He was the Go To Guy.’ SGT Sandri chose to assume one of most important roles in an airborne unit—that of “Doc”. Ask any Trooper who has fought in Afghanistan or Iraq and they will always say how important “Doc” was. He is the guy you go to when the days of patrolling have taken a toll and you need some Motrin; he is the guy that makes sure the combat lifesavers of the unit are trained and ready; and most importantly, he is the guy that every Paratrooper knows will risk his own life to get to a fallen comrade to provide critical medical aid no matter the personal danger. That was Doc Sandri. Today we are not merely dedicating this structure to your front to SGT Matt Sandri but we are dedicating the capability this building represents—a place that takes care of Paratroopers; just as Matt did. The Sandri Medical Treatment facility will be wherever the Charlie Company, 82nd BSB guidon is; whether that is back at the Battalion Aid Station on Fort Bragg, on a distant drop zone where medics are taking care of Paratroopers, or a building in the desert of Iraq. Matt you are deeply missed and will never be forgotten!”
Bronze Star Medal (Posthumous)
Purple Heart (Posthumous)
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Parachutist Badge awarded May10, 2002
Combat Medical Badge awarded December 3, 2002
Valorous Unit Citation was awarded to the 3BCT for gallantry in combat in Iraq