Sgt. Matthew L. Tallman was a helicopter crew chief, a husband, a father, a gifted mechanic and "a good soul," according to his mother, Virginia Tallman of Groveland.
Tallman died Wednesday in a helicopter crash in Multaka, Iraq, along with 13 other soldiers. The cause of the crash is under investigation, but it is believed to have been mechanical problems rather than enemy fire.
"Matthew was just an all-around good person. He had a good soul," his mother said. "He didn't always do things the right way, but he was a good guy."
A seven-year veteran of the Army, Tallman, 30, was promoted to sergeant after his death. He had been up for the promotion before the crash, and the family was notified Thursday that he had enough points to earn the new rank, his mother said.
Tallman leaves behind a wife, Nicole, and two children, Sandra, 6, and Matthew Ryley, 1. He met Nicole, who also was in the Army at the time, in advanced training. "He loved his family and his children," Virginia Tallman said.
In an interview with the Muskegon (Mich.) Chronicle, Tallman's mother-in-law, Vicki Whiting, called him "a good father, good husband and good human being." She said his death should be more than just a statistic.
"There was a whole little family destroyed," Whiting said. "He wasn't just a number. I want people to know Matthew Tallman existed."
"He loved what he did, and died doing what he wanted," Nicole Tallman said Friday. "He was enjoying the fact that he was in a leadership role."
She said her husband had resisted becoming a leader at first, but then recognized the need because of the many younger people coming into the Army.
He was her only child
Tallman grew up in the Bay Area, attending Santa Clara schools, Virginia Tallman said. His father died when he was young, and he was her only child.
"I moved to Groveland after I retired, and he lived with me for a year," Virginia Tallman said.
They were familiar with the area long before that, however. "Growing up, we spent a lot of time in Yosemite, hiking. He loved to hike," she said.
Her son showed a mechanical aptitude early on. "He could fix anything," Virginia Tallman said. "He never read directions, he just picked it up and did it. He had a great mind; he remembered everything."
Tallman enlisted in the Army in 2000, and became a Black Hawk helicopter repairman after basic training in Fort Benning, Ga. He did a tour of duty in Afghanistan as a helicopter mechanic, and then was sent to Iraq as a flight crew chief.
"He would call me and tell me there was nothing to worry about, they were just running a taxi service," Virginia Tallman said. "He knew I was scared when he went over there."
'It's not right, but it's reality'
The Army frequently uses helicopters to transport troops in Iraq, according to news reports, because of the toll roadside bombs have taken. The four-member helicopter flight crew that included Tallman was assigned to 4th Squadron, 6th U.S. Air Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis, Wash. The crew was ferrying soldiers in that taxi function Wednesday when the crash occurred.
Among the awards and decorations Tallman earned were the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Virginia Tallman said her son might not have agreed with everything happening in Iraq, but that didn't stop him from carrying out his mission.
"He had a job, some things he didn't like, but he had a job to do and he was ready to do it. That was his mind-set," she said. "He loved what he was doing in the Army, and he did it well."
Tallman's body will be brought back to California to be buried near his father in San Jose, Virginia Tallman said.
"He was just one of those average Americans over there fighting the war. He was doing his job and lost his life doing it," she said. "It's not right, but it's real-ity."
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2349.