After one of his chemo sessions, Matt Blount told his father he had to leave to meet a friend, Kyle Comfort. Even though Matt was weak from the treatment, Barry Blount knew his son was strong and strong-willed so he didn't protest.
Little did his father know that Matt, who was battling Ewing’s Sarcoma (bone cancer), wasn’t leaving to hang out with Comfort. Instead, Matt rode his motorcycle, serving as one of the escorts at the funeral for his friend.
“I later asked him if that was a real smart thing to do,” Barry remembers. “He said, ‘Dad, he would have done the same thing for me.’”
That anecdote is typical of Army 2nd Lt. Matt Blount, who finally succumbed to cancer March 10, 2012 – three days after the 30-year-old realized his dream of an Army commission. "He was all about self-sacrifice," Chief Warrant Officer Troy Tarazon said at the burial service in Montevallo, Ala. "He was not about himself, ever."
With a heavy heart and an unrelenting will, Barry focused his efforts on honoring and remembering his “hero.” His efforts turned into reality in September 2014 when Matthew Blount American Legion Post 555 was formally certified.
“I’ve tried to keep his legacy alive,” Barry says. “Action speaks louder than words. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to know if a person is sincere or not. Apparently, I made my point. And the outpouring of support has been unbelievable.”
Within a week, the post had 30 members. By March, the post boasted 70 members and was launching youth programs in Matt’s honor.
“The community showed lots of love and respect,” says Barry, who is commander of Post 555. “You wonder if you are worthy of it. When we started out we were trying to give back to our community, our veterans. And we wanted to open doors, especially to the youth. It was what Matt was all about. That’s Matt’s fuse. I can’t take credit for it.”
Giving credit to someone else is in the Blount blood.
A.J. Blount learned many life lessons from his older brother. “Matt wouldn’t take credit for his own actions,” A.J. says, describing his brother’s time as a 21-year-old combat medic. “He would say, ‘Oh, it wasn’t me, it was the guy next to me. I showed up and did a few things.’ That was Matt’s mentality, even though he did 100 percent of the work.”
Tarazon, who served with Matt at a base in Germany and in Iraq, says Matt was quick to accept responsibility. “We got in many firefights, and he was always up front. He treated many casualties, and he definitely contributed to saving many lives.”
Matt demonstrated leadership, always finding the positive in every person. A.J. knows that first-hand. “I wouldn’t be here, wearing these captain bars, if it were not for him,” he says. “I was fine just being enlisted and going that route. My brother told me that he saw more potential in me. He saw more drive in me than I saw in myself.”
It was A.J. who administered the oath at Matt’s hospital bedside as tears flowed.
Even when his brother was doing chemo, A.J. says he was doing his homework and still going to class managing as best he could.
“He never gave up,” A.J. recalls. “When the doctors told him he had three months to live, he went through the seven stages of grief quickly. He said, ‘It is what it is. I can’t do anything about it. It’s cancer. I can’t just have a simple operation.’ He battled it for over two years.”
The Blounts’ church – the First Baptist Church of Pelham – honored Matt’s memory with a special stained-glass window. With an active American Legion post and such community tributes, Matt’s legacy will endure.
“We have a simple message of giving back,” Barry says. “That was related to what Matt’s legacy was all about. He was always taking care of his soldiers, and it was what was instilled in him at this church and the way they were raised.”