UND student Matt Eidson pays constant tribute to fallen Marine Corps buddies with memorial bracelets
University of North Dakota English major Matt Eidson wears the memory of his friends on his sleeve 24/7.
For that reason, Eidson, a former U.S. Marine Corps radio operator, won’t be making any special plans this Memorial Day weekend to commemorate brothers and sisters in arms who’ve died in their service to America. For him, and for many like Eidson who’ve served overseas and lost dear friends in battle, Memorial Day is every day.
When you meet Eidson, 28, it’s not hard to notice the solemn black bracelets he wears -- one on each wrist -- to remind him of two fellow Marines who gave the ultimate sacrifice: one in battle in Afghanistan and the other at home at Camp Pendleton in California.
Eidson, a native of Adrian, Mo., who came to UND originally to pursue an unmanned aircraft systems major, had the bracelets especially made and etched with a mini bio of each departed friend.
“At a certain point, you feel a responsibility to them,” Eidson said. “They had plans in their lives but now they can’t act on them. So everything you want to do, you do it for them, too, but in such a manner, that it honors their sacrifice.”
On the right wrist, Eidson honors Marine Cpl. Mark Goyet, who was serving with the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Marines in Helmand Province of Afghanistan. On June 28, 2011, Goyet was killed while engaged in a vicious battle with enemy fighters. He was all of 22.
Eidson and Goyet had struck up a strong friendship during boot camp in San Diego and later were briefly assigned to the same installation at Twentynine Palms, Calif. The two kept in close contact through social media throughout their careers as Marines, but, Eidson explains he didn’t find out about Goyet’s death until a month to the day after it happened.
Eidson was deployed to Afghanistan at the same time as Goyet but they were in different locations. Eidson discovered his friend had been killed after checking his Facebook account and seeing a passing reference by another person about Goyet’s death. The comment was something to the effect: “I can’t believe it’s been a month already.”
Eidson had not been able to monitor his Facebook feed for many weeks before that due to the tempo of operations in his area. It was a gut punch to learn about Goyet’s passing and for it to happen so long after the fact.
Eidson found himself taking time to scroll through Goyet’s Facebook feed to catch up on recent history that he might have missed. He was particularly struck by the irony of Goyet’s final posting: “Sh#t is what it is until it isn’t.” Eidson has since dropped the mild expletive and adopted that line has his own credo – “It is what it is until it isn’t”
Eidson and Goyet also were in Iraq at the same time in 2009 before Goyet was sent to Japan as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit. Later, when Goyet’s enlistment was about to run out, instead of calling it a career, he decided to extend his contract for the chance to go overseas again with his fellow Marines, this time to Afghanistan. Months later he would be dead.
“He didn’t have to go, he volunteered to do it,” Eidson said. “That’s the kind of person he was.”
On the left wrist, Eidson honors a junior officer, 1st Lt. Matthew Davis, of the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines, also known as a the “Blackhearts.” Davis was the top officer for 1st Platoon and Eidson was assigned to be his radio operator.
Eidson recalled that Davis was the kind of officer that every Marine would want to serve under. He was a so-called “Mustang” – an officer who was formerly enlisted but who eventually got a college degree and came back to lead young Marines.
“He was a very fun and outgoing guy,” Eidson said.
On Nov. 7, 2014, Davis was assigned to be the duty officer that day on Camp San Mateo, a subsection of Camp Pendleton, where the 5th Marines were stationed. It was Davis’ job to make sure that order was kept in the camp while he was on duty.
About midnight, camp police were in pursuit of a Marine lance corporal in a pickup. The Marine was suspected of drunk driving but refused to pull over for police. Reaching speeds of 70 mph in an attempt to evade authorities, the truck stormed through the camp eventually striking a minivan driven by Davis. The impact crushed the minivan, throwing it about 30 feet. Davis died as a result. He was 30.
Today, in addition to the bracelets on his wrist, Eidson holds dear two portraits. They’re the stark images of the Goyet and Davis’ simple granite military gravestones. He also holds in his mind the vivid memories of good times spent with his two friends. And not just on Memorial Day.
“The thing about Memorial Day – what it’s all about is not lost on people but they approach it as if it’s just another day off from work,” Eidson said. “I don’t have to relegate the way I feel down to one day, because it’s something that I deal with every day.”
University & Public Affairs writer