SPOKANE, Wash – Sgt. Matthew Stiltz, 26, of Spokane was passionate about serving in the military. He enlisted as soon as he turned 18, and his family says he probably would have made a career out of it.
But before he was a Sergeant, Matthew Stiltz was a student at Shadle Park High School.
"When he talked about it you could tell it was something he had considered, and he had thought about it very seriously," marketing teacher Erin Ruehl told KHQ.
His junior and senior years, Stiltz was active in DECA, the association for marketing students. His senior year, he competed locally, and then qualified for state in Seattle. That spring, he and his team made it to nationals, and traveled to Anaheim, California, to attend along with Ruehl.
"Which is really quite an accomplishment, because in that particular kind of event we haven't had a lot of students in our area make it to nationals," she said.
Flipping through old DECA and yearbook photos, Ruehl calls Stiltz a hard worker, dedicated and responsible, but also with a good sense of humor.
"You can tell in these pictures, he had a wonderful smile and was very positive," she added.
The day after Veterans Day, on his third tour of duty, the 26-year-old was killed in Afghanistan. Now his parents and wife of three years are in Dover, Delaware receiving his body, then will travel to his base in Fort Riley, Kansas, before returning home.
"It just doesn't seem right that it should be so soon," Ruehl added. "It was a life cut short that was full of opportunities, and that's never something you like to see happen."