Matt Mason, an MCC-Maple Woods alumnus and fallen Navy SEAL, was honored on Veterans Day with the dedication of a memorial in his hometown of Kearney, Mo.
The memorial, in front of the Kearney Historic Museum at 101 S. Jefferson St., includes a “battlefield cross” — a helmet atop a military weapon, anchored at the bottom by a pair of boots — as well as a large photo of Mason. A 25-foot flagpole behind the memorial flies the U.S. and Navy SEAL flags.
Kearney Fire Chief Larry Pratt told the Kearney Courier that after Mason’s family donated the cross sculpture to the city, the fire department had been taking it to community events.
“We had it out at Smithville Lake during an event. We had the guys take it to some concerts here and around to all of the schools,” Pratt told the paper. “The guys really like doing those things. We always want to show our support, but it’s definitely time it had a permanent home.”
Mason was serving as a member of the elite Naval Special Operations Command (SOC) when his U.S. military Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan in August 2011.
Thirty-eight people died in the attack including 30 American service members. Of the Americans, 17 were Navy SEALs.
Mason was 37.
Before Mason became a Navy SEAL, he attended MCC-Maple Woods and played baseball. The right-fielder, a 1992 Kearney High School grad, enrolled at Maple Woods in 1993 and was a leader on the Monarchs baseball team for two years.
From MCC, Mason went on to Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He enlisted in the Navy in 1999.
Each year, the Monarchs baseball program selects a player for the Matt Mason Award, an honor given to those who display the same spirit of service and passion for life that Mason exemplified.
The award comes with a scholarship, first awarded in 2013-14. The MCC Foundation, along with Mason’s friends and family, established the scholarship to keep Mason’s name alive and to honor his memory.
“Matt was an amazing person and an amazing baseball player,” said Jason Key, a friend. “I remember several times in practice we’d be running sprints at the end and everyone would be bent over huffing and puffing and Matt would be full of energy and couldn’t wait for the coach to say go.”
Key works with family and friends to organize the Matt Mason Memorial “Cowboy UP!” Triathlon. The event was established to honor, support and celebrate the lives of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This triathlon is their way to stay close to their dear friend and keep his memory alive while focusing on supporting others like him and their families.
They have once again donated money to grant another Matt Mason Scholarship this year. The recipient has not yet been announced.