Colt Martin, a friend of the Sitton family, is one of several people who carried placards honoring U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton as his funeral motorcade passed by on Ulmerton Road Aug. 10. Sitton was killed Aug. 2 in Afghanistan.
Photo by TOM GERMOND
Area residents pay their respects Aug. 10 to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton as a funeral motorcade makes its way west on Ulmerton Road.
Photo by WAYNE CATHEL
Widow Sarah Sitton, clutches her husband’s dog tags Aug. 10 as U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton’s coffin is removed from the hearse which transported him from MacDill Air Force base to Hubbell Funeral Home in Belleair Bluffs.
LARGO – Hundreds or more of area residents toting American flags lined Ulmerton Road and other streets this morning as the Largo soldier who was killed in Afghanistan Aug. 2 was brought in a motorcade to a Belleair Bluffs funeral home.
Friends of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton and his family, members of his church and others unfurled large flags, took cover under red, white and blue umbrellas, sat in folding chairs, sipped on water and waited patiently for more than an hour for the motorcade to make its way in past Indian Rocks Baptist Church, where the funeral for Sitton will be held tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Some older teens waited on the back of their pickup truck in the parking lot for the procession; other people crowded under a line of young old trees for shade as only an occasional wisp of wind brought relief from of the heat. A group of elderly veterans were escorted out of a van and led to their wheelchairs.
Motorists heading west sounded their horns, in show of support. A veteran planted several small flags in the ground.
Colt Martin carried a placard that said, “Our hero, Matt.” A friend of Matthew’s family who played baseball with Matthew in junior high school and went to church with him, Martin described Matthew as a loving person.
“I would say he loved the lord. Committed. Dedicated to whatever he did, and he did it well,” Martin said.
Jason Rawley of Largo also knew Matthew.
“Steve Sitton, Matthew Sitton’s father, was our mechanic and very good friend. We highly respect him (Matthew) and loved him very much. We came out to show our support,” Rawley, his voice cracking.
Don Forehand has known Steve and Cheryl, Matthew’s mother, before Matthew was born.
“It’s like losing one of my own,” Forehand said. “We came to the church in November 1986, and Cheryl and Steve were the counselors.”
Recalling Matthew when he was little brought a smile to Forehand’s face.
“He was the neatest little redhead,” he said, laughing. “He was everybody’s little kid.”
Matthew was a real athlete and fun to know, Forehand said.
We had real relationship with the Sittons for many, many years. That just broke my heart. I got sick to my stomach,” Forehand said.
The family motorcade, escorted by the Pinellas and Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office deputies, departed from the west side of the Pinellas Sheriff’s complex at around 8 a.m. today and proceeded over the Gandy Bridge to MacDill Air Force Base, to retrieve Matthew’s remains.
The motorcade returned to Pinellas County around 11:30 a.m., via the Howard Frankland Bridge, and proceeded on Ulmerton Road past the Sheriff’s Office to Indian Rocks Road. Their destination was Hubbell Funeral Home, 499 Indian Rocks Road. N., Belleair Bluffs.
“I belong to his church. I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s great giving our support, showing we honor him,” said Lisa O’Brien of Largo.
Tracy Hutcheson of Belleair stood with friends along Ulmerton Road waiting for the procession. Matthew was a techer’s assistants for a couple of years, and Cheryl Sitton was one her son’s first teachers at Indian Rocks Christian School.