LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — For the last four years, the Roland family has traveled to Washington D.C. for Memorial Day, making multiple visits to their son's grave site at Arlington National Cemetery.
This year, after a Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery was canceled and in light of the difficulties that come along with traveling during a pandemic, the Roland family plans to stay home in Lexington. But the family still plans to take time to remember Matthew Roland, an Air Force special tactics officer who died while serving in Afghanistan in 2015, his father Mark Roland said.
"While we miss him, we're proud of what he did," he said.
Mark Roland, a retired Air Force colonel himself, said his son forged his own path.
"I flew airplanes, he controlled them from the ground but that's what he wanted to do," he said.
Matthew Roland was leading a convoy when he was killed.
"They were basically ambushed and he was in the lead vehicle, leading the convoy, and pretty much put himself in the line of fire and saved, really saved everyone else on the convoy with his actions and his warning," he said.
One other airman was killed at the time, he said. For previous Memorial Day weekends, the family has participated in a conference in Washington D.C. for families who've had loved ones killed while serving in the military. This year that conference will be virtual.
The ceremonies for the day of remembrance, held at national cemeteries like Camp Nelson in Nicholasville, have been canceled due to concerns with the coronavirus pandemic.
"A big difference for us and many many many other people this year," he said.
Instead, the family plans to spend time together and share stories about Matthew, he said, and he hopes others will take time to remember all fallen service members.
"Whether they put up a flag on their front yard or they take the time to maybe say a little prayer or thanks or, you know, however they take it upon themselves to just remember those folks." Roland said.
And for those who knew his son, he said, he hopes they remember his goofy wit and laugh.