Snyder: Measure honoring local military heroes signed into law

Act 3 names junction, span for two killed in battles in Vietnam, Somalia

HARRISBURG, May 13 – State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, said Gov. Tom Wolf today signed into law her measure honoring two members of America’s armed forces from southwestern Pennsylvania killed in action in Vietnam and Somalia.

“The ultimate sacrifices of two men from Washington and Greene counties will not be forgotten by those who bask in the freedoms they fought to preserve,” said Snyder of Act 3 of 2015. “Although their sacrifices were separated by more than a quarter century, our respect and appreciation have not diminished for either of our local heroes.”

Act 3 names the Exit 28 Mon-Fayette Expressway Interchange with state routes 43 and 88 in Centerville, Washington County, as the Marine Corporal Thomas R. Matty Memorial Interchange. It also names the Route 88 bridge over Muddy Creek in Cumberland Township, Greene County, as the Army Corporal Richard W. Kowalewski, Jr. Memorial Bridge.

Snyder said Matty was 22 years old when he was killed by artillery fire in the Quang Nam Province near Da Nang on Dec, 21, 1967, six weeks after arriving in Vietnam.

“Bethlehem-Center High School still honors him with an award presented annually to a graduating senior,” Snyder said. “Soon, key infrastructure in the region will forever recall his sacrifice.”

Snyder said Matty, a native of Denbo, Washington County, served with the 1st Marine Division and was one of 2,633 military deaths from Pennsylvania during the Vietnam Conflict. Matty also is honored with an inscription on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Kowalewski, who was born in Waynesburg and later lived in Crucible, was killed Oct. 3, 1993, during a search-and-rescue mission in Mogadishu, Somalia. He was a member of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and was deployed to Somalia in August 1993 as part of a United Nations peace-keeping operation.

"Corporal Kowalewski was one of the 18 Ranger and Delta Force members killed in what has been described as the U.S. military's single most costly firefight since Vietnam,” said Snyder, noting that Kowalewski joined the Army just two days after graduating from Carmichaels Area High School in 1992.

Snyder said the street battle in Mogadishu and Kowalewski’s role in the convoy sent to rescue downed helicopter pilots were depicted in the novel and movie "Black Hawk Down."
“His stirring courage and devotion in the midst of a firefight will not be forgotten,” Snyder said. “A hero of his mettle deserves a bridge named in his honor and so much more.”

Snyder said ceremonies for the two corporals will be arranged. The state Turnpike Commission and Department of Transportation will be responsible for erecting appropriate signs at the two locations.

The law, which takes effect in 60 days, passed unanimously in the House and Senate.