Matthew A. Ritz – Master Sergeant, United States Army

24 November 2005:
Soldier fatally injured in parachute training

FORT BENNING, Georgia – An airborne student was fatally injured when he hit his head upon landing on his fifth parachute jump at Fort Benning, authorities said Thursday.

Sergeant First Class Matthew A. Ritz died at The Medical Center in Columbus on Wednesday, the day after he was injured, post spokeswoman Elsie Johnson said.

Johnson said Ritz, 33, was based with the 289th Military Police Company at Fort Myer, Virginia, and had been in the Army since 1991, serving in Desert Storm.

The accident is still under investigation.

Army sergeant from Allentown killed in training accident


A 33-year-old Army sergeant who hailed from Allentown, Pennsylvania,  was killed last Wednesday during a airborne training exercise at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Sergeant First Class Matthew A. Ritz, a Whitehall High School graduate who joined the Army in 1991, died when he struck his head on a parachute jump.

Ritz was born in Allentown in 1972 and joined the service shortly after high school. He served in Operation Desert Storm. He leaves a wife and three children.

Ritz will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery Friday.

Matthew A. Ritz:

Master Sergeant Matthew A. Ritz, 33, assigned to the Old Guard at Fort Myer, Virginia, died on November 23, 2005 at Fort Benning, Georgia, during an airborne training exercise.

Born in Allentown on June 6, 1972, he was a 1990 graduate of Whitehall High School. Matthew was a devoted husband and father. He leaves behind his wife of 12 years, Marcia (Medley) and three young children.

Matthew entered the Army in 1991 and devoted more than 14 years of service to his country. His most prestigious awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award with one oak leaf cluster, and the Army Superior Unit Award, and the Army Service Ribbon. He also earned the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge, the Drill Sergeant Identification Badge, the Air Assault Badge, and the Basic Parachutist Badge. He was also a distinguished member of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

Preceding him in death was his mother, Mary Ellen (Methot) Ritz, his paternal grandparents, Lester and Catherine Ritz and his maternal grandparents, Edward and Anna Methot. Survivors: Surviving is his wife Marcia of Fort Belvoir, Virginia; his three children, Michael, Kyle and Hailey at home; father, L. James Ritz and stepmother, Susan Ritz, of Whitehall; brother, James Ritz and his wife, Kristen, of Havertown; sisters, Jill Hoch and her husband, Greg, of Nazareth, Melissa Cavenas and her husband, Terry, of Mahanoy City, Samantha Moyer and her husband Jack, of Allentown; six nieces and nephews.

Services: Visitation hours will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, Murphy Funeral Home, 4510 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia 22203. Burial will be held from 10-11 a.m. Friday, December 2 in Arlington National Cemetery.

Contributions: May be made to the Ritz Family Scholarship Fund,care of the Fort Belvoir Credit Union, 14040 Central Loop, Woodbridge, Virginia 22193.

Benning probes Airborne death
Funeral for Master Sergeant Matthew A. Ritz on Friday

As the investigation into the Airborne training death of Master Sergeant Matthew A. Ritz continues, the funeral for the Allentown, Pennsylvania, native is scheduled for Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ritz, 33, died the day before Thanksgiving from severe head injuries suffered November 22, 2005.

Stationed with the 289th Military Police Company at Fort Myer, Virginia, best known throughout the military as the “Old Guard,” Ritz was making his fifth jump of the week when the accident occurred on the Fryar Drop Zone in Alabama.

He was in his third and final week of Airborne school.

Fort Benning spokesperson Elsie Jackson said Tuesday that safety inspectors from the Army's Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, are investigating the cause of the accident.

“Witnesses say his canopy opened properly after exiting the aircraft,” Jackson said. “The injury apparently came during the landing,” she said. He was immediately evacuated to The Medical Center in Columbus, where he died from head trauma.

All other jumpers landed safely and reported no problems.

The fatality was the second this year involving students in the Airborne school. Private First Class Megan Adelman, 19, of Alliance, Ohio, died in January while attempting the second of five required jumps in the Airborne course.

Adelman's death was the first since 1990, when two Airborne students died within 15 days of one another. Both of those accidents were caused by parachute malfunction. During that 15-year time frame, approximately 200,000 soldiers completed 1 million jumps without a fatality.

Ritz was born in Allentown in 1972 and joined the service shortly after graduating from Whitehall High School in 1990.

Survivors include his wife of 12 years, Marcia, of Fort Belvoir, Virginia; and their three children — Michael, Kyle and Hailey.

A memorial service for Ritz will be held at the Fort Myer chapel later today, said Sergeant Patrick Malone of the Old Guard Public Affairs Office.

He explained that the elements of The Old Guard include the U.S. Army Drill Team, the Presidential Guns Salute Battery, the Tomb Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the Caisson Platoon.

Several of Ritz's friends from the “Old Guard” will have active roles at his funeral.

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