WALLA WALLA -- A Walla Walla soldier based in North Carolina was killed Wednesday in an attack in Afghanistan, his family said.
First Lt. Mathew "Mat" Fazzari was killed by enemy fire while flying in his first tour in Bagram. Few details about the attack have been released by the Department of Defense.
Fazzari, a 2005 graduate of DeSales Catholic High School and 2010 graduate of Gonzaga University, was known as a devoted husband and father to his two young sons, ages 2 and 8 months.
Fazzari, the son of Greg and Susan Fazzari, had been flying a helicopter on a surveillance mission, his mother said in an email. He reportedly was part of a scout team of engaged Kiowa Warriors, according to a blog post written by another pilot.
The single-engine helicopters are designed for armed reconnaissance, security, target acquisition and designation, command and control, light attack and defensive air combat missions in support of combat and contingency operations, according to the Army.
Mat Fazzari and a fellow pilot were reportedly flown to Forward Operating Base Ghazni, a Polish base with the nearest medical facility on the Ghazni province.
His family in Walla Walla was expected to be flown by military escort to Dover Air Base in Delaware on Thursday for a receiving ceremony for fallen soldiers, his mother said.
News of the death rocked the Catholic community. "It's just all a shock right now for all of us," said DeSales Principal John Lesko.
Both associate pastors were with the family Wednesday night, said the Rev. Patrick Kerst. A special Mass was conducted Thursday.
Kerst said he knew Mat Fazzari through his work at DeSales. He remembered an affable, amiable young man with a maturity beyond his years.
"He was one of those few kids who would actually acknowledge the presence of an adult when they're passing in the halls at school," Kerst said.
An involved student, he was a high school athlete and band member who demonstrated a passion for all that he did, Lesko said.
"There was a certain fire in him that you don't always see in a lot of students, and we've had good ones," he said.
"You knew he was going to be successful because he just had that passion."
His father is a math and science teacher at DeSales. Mat Fazzari followed in his dad's footsteps, graduating with a degree in math with honors from Gonzaga University.
His military service also followed the path of his grandfather, the late Samuel J. Fazzari, a staff sergeant in the Army during World War II.
Commissioned as an officer in the Army after being a four-year cadet in the nationally ranked ROTC at Gonzaga, Mat Fazzari had just graduated from flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., in April and then was based out of Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C.
"He was proud of what he was doing," Lesko said. "Proud of being a father. Proud of where he was at in his life."
He is survived by his wife, Tovah Kingman Fazzari of Walla Walla, and two sons, Dominic, 2, and Samuel, 8 months. He also is survived by brothers, Luke and Shawn, and sister, Danielle Fazzari.
Lesko said the community likely will assemble more gathering and supportive events in the coming days.