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Town, Army comrades mourn soldier

Union Leader Correspondent

February 28. 2012 11:36PM
Members of a young Lyman soldier's Army unit gathered Tuesday morning at his home base in Georgia for a memorial ceremony that was videotaped and will be sent to his family, according to the unit's information officer.

The service at Fort Benning followed a memorial gathering Monday at Lisbon Regional School for Spec. Matthew R. Woods, 22, a 2007 graduate of the school and an Iraq war veteran who died Feb. 19 at the Army base, just days before he was to leave the Army following his tour of duty. A crowd estimated at 500 attended what was called a celebration of Woods' life. Woods, the son of Michael and Rena Woods, lived at the family's Parker Hill Road home and was due - following his military discharge - to travel with them last weekend from Fort Benning back to New Hampshire, stopping to visit relatives along the way.

Instead, the soldier's body traveled the final 60 or so miles Saturday night from Plymouth back to the North Country, escorted by two police cars over routes 25 and 302. Local police and fire officials, as well as residents of a number of communities on the route, emerged from their vehicles on the cold, windy night as the cars approached, and stood quietly alongside the highway - some at attention - while the hearse passed en route to Ross Funeral Home in Littleton.

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, said Tuesday that Army officials continue to believe no foul play was involved in the death of Woods, who entered the Army in January 2009 as a cavalry scout. He was found unresponsive in his barracks room that Sunday morning and was later pronounced dead.

'There are no new developments regarding the death of Specialist Woods. We're awaiting the autopsy report, but it will probably be several weeks before that's available,' Gales said.

As news of Woods' death made its way through his hometown of fewer than 400 people last week, stunned friends, acquaintances and former schoolmates combined for an outpouring of support for the Woods family, including Matthew's older brother, Michael, 24.

Rena Woods said her son's graduating class of some 35 members arrived at the home last Wednesday evening to be with them. His former coach, Les Poore, Lisbon Regional School's athletic director, said Matt Woods was well-liked by his schoolmates at the high school where he'd played on successful baseball, basketball and soccer teams.

Following a graveside service Monday, Woods was laid to rest at Lyman Center Cemetery in the small town south of Littleton that his former coach described as a 'spot on the map.'

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