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February 22. 2012 9:50PM

Lyman soldier's death mourned


MATTHEW WOODS 

LYMAN — A 22-year-old soldier from Lyman was found dead in his barracks Sunday at Fort Benning, Ga., just days before the Iraq veteran was due to leave the Army.

Spc. Matthew Woods, a 2007 Lisbon Regional School graduate, “was found unresponsive in his barracks room Sunday morning. He was later pronounced dead by paramedics,” Army officials said in a news release.

“No foul play is suspected,” said Maj. Ellis Gales, Jr., brigade public affairs officer for Woods' unit, the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

“We were just getting ready to go down and get him,” his mother, Rena Woods said Wednesday night. “We were leaving Saturday. He was getting out of the Army for good. We were going to fly down and drive back, and visit family along the way. This is so awful. This is really hard.”

She said she had heard nothing from the Army regarding the cause of her son's death. That information may not be coming soon, according to Gales.

“The matter is under investigation,” he said Wednesday from Ft. Benning.

The news has stunned Woods' tiny hometown of fewer than 400. Lyman is about 10 miles south of downtown Littleton, on Route 302.

The high school in nearby Lisbon where Woods played basketball and soccer is very close-knit, with the typical graduating class no more than about 35 students, according to Athletic Director Les Poore.

Poore coached Woods in basketball and soccer, and knew him well. He said he had just returned from visiting Woods' mother, father and older brother Michael, 24.

“He was a good kid from a loving family,” Poore said. “There's just been an outpouring of support for the family. He had a good sense of humor. All the kids really liked him. He was just a hard-working kid.

“If Matt was down one day, he'd always come back with a smile. We can be very proud of him. He was one of our better student-athletes to come out of Lisbon,” Poore said.

Woods' former coach particularly recalled a goal Woods scored in a semifinal playoff match with arch-rival Woodsville High School. The Engineers had just dropped down to New Hampshire's Class S and were battling Lisbon in the postseason when Woods scored a goal Poore described as “the biggest goal in my coaching career,” helping oust Woodsville from the tournament.

“That was our first soccer title,” Poore said.

“It's just a tragedy for our town,” Poore said.

Woods joined the Army in January 2009 as a cavalry scout. Following his “initial entry training” at Fort Knox, Ky., he reported to the “3-1 Cav.” in May of that year, Army officials said.

Rena Woods said her husband was particularly distraught Wednesday night.

“He's taking it very hard. They were best friends. They had a lot of plans. Matt will be missed in this town,” she said.


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