Honoring service, sacrifice

Matthew David Roland was born on Christmas Eve in 1987 at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, S.D., where his father, retired Air Force Col. Mark Roland, was stationed.

Air Force Captain Matthew Roland died Aug. 26 from injuries sustained in combat in Afghanistan, where he was attached to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron based at Hurburt Field, Fla., a part of the Air Force Special Operations Command.

Capt. Roland's family moved among Air Force bases but settled in Lexington, where the Eagle Scout attended Lexington Catholic High School, graduating in 2006. There he stood out for his intelligence, commitment, leadership and work ethic.

"He was driven to succeed," said Tim Wiesenhahn, his cross country coach. Wiesenhahn, who still coaches at Catholic, said "the best runners really work at it, and Matt wanted to be successful, and he put in the work."

Capt. Roland put in the work to earn an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he graduated in 2010, and then to earn a spot in the Special Tactics Squadron in 2012 by completing the rigourous special tactics training program. At the time of his death, he was a team leader supervising combat preparedness training for a team of 35.

Capt. Roland 27, and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31, were shot and killed in their vehicle near Camp Antonlik in Helmand province. According to the Air Force, they were at a checkpoint when two people wearing Afghan National Defense and Security Forces uniforms shot at them. NATO service members shot and killed the shooters.

"I believe he was a hero," said Carrie Roberts, who taught Capt. Roland advanced-placement physics at Lexington Catholic and wrote a letter of recommendation on his behalf to the Air Force Academy.

Tuesday he will be honored and remembered at a visitation and service at Lexington Catholic before his burial, with full military honors, at Arlington National Cemetery.

In addition to his father, Capt. Roland is survived by his mother, Barbara, sister Erica Roland and niece Willamina Roland. We honor his service and join many others in offering condolences to his family.