Monday, May 26, 2014

Mourners remember quiet, helpful Army doctor (may we do the same)

He was a soldier, a respected doctor, a steady-handed pilot, all qualities worth bragging about. But Matthew Philip Houseal wasn't the chest-beating type, his sister said.
Dr. (Major) Matthew Houseal, God grant eternal rest unto him
He often melted quietly into the background. For that, many people knew him as "the invisible man," she said.
"He always was there for people," said Anne Houseal, a U.S. Air Force colonel. "He was a great example of service and honor."

Family and friends gathered Tuesday at St. Ann's Church in Canyon to pay their final respects to the slain Amarillo physician. Hundreds of American flags waved outside the church as a bell tolled and a lone bagpiper played softly in the distance.

Heads bowed and eyes welled with tears as a military color guard brought his flag-draped casket into the church. Arms curled gently around heavy shoulders.
"It's a sad day in America," said Jack Barnes, president of America Supports You Texas. "A good man was taken away from us."

Houseal, 54, a major in the Army Reserve, was one of five soldiers killed May 11 when a U.S. soldier allegedly opened fire in a mental health clinic at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

In his sermon, the Rev. Phu Phan praised Houseal for sacrificing for his country and for placing the needs of others, often strangers, above his own.
"He found meaning in his desire to help others," Phan said. "We need to thank God for the gift of his life." Troubled by the rising suicide rates among veterans, Houseal joined the reserves to use his training as a psychiatrist to help stem the tide.
Houseal's body was taken to Llano Cemetery in Amarillo, where hundreds of other military personnel are buried.

There, Houseal's daughters laid long-stemmed flowers on his wooden casket. His wife, Dr. Luzma Houseal, hugged the casket and mouthed the words "I love you" while dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Raised in Michigan, Houseal was a psychiatrist at Texas Panhandle Mental Health Mental Retardation in Amarillo. The father of seven had worked there since February 1997. He was in Baghdad fulfilling obligations as a reservist.

Anne Houseal said her brother never focused on his accomplishments. His penchant for helping others emerged early in life but seemed to intensify in his college years, when he also developed an "insatiable appetite for learning," she said.

Houseal, a certified flight instructor, often gave flying lessons to aspiring pilots while putting himself through medical school. Early in his career, he also practiced his scalpel techniques on stuffed animals, fixing them up to give to young children.
"Matt would never define himself as a hero, and he would never ask for or expect anything like the honor he's receiving today," his sister said. "Truly his service was a gift to our nation."

(all text and photo from

1 comment:

  1. Read every word twice. Thank you for writing this, Tiffany. I'm glad to know him better.