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Published: Tuesday, 10/19/2004

Sylvania soldier survives suicide attack

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Pfc. Matthew T. Drake Pfc. Matthew T. Drake
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A Sylvania soldier was seriously hurt in a car bombing in Iraq on Friday that killed four other people, and his family and friends are anxiously awaiting word on his recovery.

Pfc. Matthew T. Drake, who is in an Army Psychological Operations unit based at Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived at Ramstein Air Base in Germany last night on his way to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

On Friday, Private Drake was driving a truck near the town of Qaim near the Syrian border. Two other psychological operations soldiers, a Marine, and an Iraqi translator were killed in the suicide attack.

Private Drake was in a coma when he reached a military hospital and also has injuries to his head, right arm, and shoulder, including a fractured skull.

"It's an unbelievable miracle that he survived," his aunt, Linda Marie Domini, said.

He has had several surgeries for his head injuries and will have more surgeries when he is in a more stable condition. He will eventually be transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Private Drake graduated from Sylvania Northview High School in 2001 and attended Bowling Green State University for a year. In October, 2002, he left to join the Army.

He wanted to protect his younger siblings, Heather Schuster, a sophomore at Northview, and Michael Schuster, a sixth-grader at Arbor Hills Junior High.

"He really felt called to serve," his aunt said. "He wanted to go fight the terrorists over there rather than have them come over here."

A member of the 9th PsyOp Battalion, Bravo Company, Private Drake left for Iraq on Sept. 7, two days after his 21st birthday, assigned to a three-man psychological operations unit. He drove an armored six-ton truck with a speaker.

His aunt said he felt that he had a job to do and he was going to do it, and he promised his mother, Lisa Schuster, that he'd come home. His father is Thomas Drake, of Toledo.

"He's coming home a Purple Heart veteran," his aunt said, her voice breaking.

Private Drake, who was a wrestler his junior and senior years in high school and is a certified personal trainer, was thinking of becoming a physical therapist, Mrs. Domini said.

Friends and family described Private Drake, who belongs to Olivet Lutheran Church in Sylvania, as a kind, funny, and generous man.

Matt Serror, who has known Private Drake since they played soccer together in elementary school, said he was quiet and shy in high school but always helped people out, whether he was shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor or dropping a dollar in a can by a cash register.

"It's the little things you might not think about," Mr. Serror said. "He's one of those people that doesn't come around every day."

When his aunt's 150-pound Rottweiler was recovering from surgery, Private Drake carried him outside when needed to go outdoors.

In an e-mail to his mother a week before the attack, he wrote that he had befriended a feral dog that ran around the encampment where he lived with two other men in a room the size of a two-car garage.

"We pray that when he does come out of his coma that he's still Matthew," Mrs. Domini said.

Sky Bank branches are accepting donations to the Matthew T. Drake fund. His aunt said that if he doesn't survive, the money will go to families of other wounded soldiers.

But she said their family is one of strong faith, and they believe he's going to make it.

"We certainly ask for people who believe in prayer to pray for his recovery," Mrs. Domini said.

Contact Elizabeth A. Shack at:

eshack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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