By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/1/11
PA Army National Guard Sgt. Matthew Keeler believes every American soldier serving overseas deserves to be recognized.
So as a military journalist with the 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment at Joint Base Balad, Keeler relishes his unique role as the one who reports on the invaluable contributions of our nation’s heroes for military news services.
But this June, the 2004 Ridley grad and former York College lacrosse standout made the headlines himself.
While performing interviews in Iraq at a base, Keeler suddenly heard the sirens for an incoming artillery shell. The ammo landed about 20 meters away and he took shrapnel from his leg to his back.
Keeler did not disclose his injuries and instead aided a soldier with wounds far more severe. For his bravery, he was awarded the Purple Heart.
Last month Keeler was back in Pennsylvania and accepted congratulations from State Rep. Joe Hackett (R-Delaware) in Harrisburg. He also was invited as a special guest at the Fifth Annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley where he played lacrosse with the late Nick Colleluori.
During the first day of the two-day Fall Ball lacrosse event, Keeler was introduced by Nick’s mother and HEADstrong Foundation President Cheryl Colleluori during her yearly speech about the progress of the Foundation’s drive to raise money and awareness for blood cancer research.
Surely no one had received a bigger ovation in the five years of the tourney than Keeler, who also attended the event with his parents, Hal and Marian.
Keeler was a teammate and friend of Nick Colleluori for many years. They started playing lacrosse together in Folsom youth and were together when Ridley won three straight state championships in the early 2000s.
Keeler was a backup goalie at Ridley, but went on to excel at York, setting several school records. He said he was honored to come back to Nick’s event, which has helped HEADstrong raise more than $1 million for the fight against blood cancer.
“Seeing that turnout, there were no words to describe it,” said Keeler, who has served for two years and had been in Iraq since September of 2010. “Coming back and seeing this event after all these years is incredible.
“This (the Nick Colleluori event) is something Nick would have loved because of his passion and commitment to helping others.
“He helped me to be the person I am today – I can only say, ‘Thank you.’”
Keeler described the incident in June. When the enemy mortar round landed, he knew he had been hit, but focused on helping the injured soldier that also had been hit and was seriously injured.
“The alarms went off and I was getting down,” Keeler said. “I waited to acknowledge I was hurt until the other soldier was taken away.
“I mostly injured my right thigh and up into my back. It healed about a month ago; I don’t have any issues now.”
Keeler said he enjoy writing about soldiers.
“I help soldiers who have no other way of communicating,” he said. “We help support them by telling their families back home what they are doing.
‘It really helps morale and it’s important that the rest of the country knows that the guy driving the convoy 9 or 10 hours a day is important. No matter what they are doing, they have a role that is a part of the cog.”