By Ed Jacques, LEJ Editor
Matthew Hilton joined the United States Army in 1989 after graduating from Holt High School. Shortly after his honorable discharge in 1991, Hilton joined the reserves, serving his country for over 18 years. During that time, he joined the Detroit Police Department and was assigned to working in the community’s tough housing projects. In 2001, Hilton joined the Lathrup Village Police Department as a patrol officer.
Matthew Hilton was a Sergeant First Class in the 425th Infantry Regiment of the Michigan Army National Guard, based at Selfridge Air Base in Macomb County. In April, 2008, Matt volunteered to join his unit in Afghanistan to help train Afghani police. It was his second tour of duty, having previously served 18 months in Iraq in 2005. Sgt. Matthew Hilton was killed while riding in a convoy near the Forward Operating Base Shank. His vehicle had hit a roadside bomb, and immediately after the explosion enemy soldiers fired bullets and rocket-propelled grenades at the soldiers stranded in the damaged vehicle. Sgt. Hilton and two other guardsmen died from the wounds suffered in the attack.
Hilton met his wife Mary while they both served in the reserves and she also served a tour of duty for 12 months in Iraq shortly after Matt arrived home after his first deployment. His step-son also serves in the military and was in basic training at the time of his death in Afghanistan.
A memorial service took place on July 8, 2008 with hundreds of soldiers and police officers, many on motorcycles, filling the parking lot of the Brightmoor Christian Church in Novi. The ceremony included Honor Guard personnel, the Metro Detroit Police and Fire Pipes and Drum Corp, as well as five generals. The generals awarded Hilton a Bronze Star for his meritorious service in Operating Enduring Freedom and a Purple Heart for his sacrifice on June 26th. The dignity and commitment of the people volunteering for the service were indicative of Sgt. Matthew Hilton’s commitment to his country and community.
Shortly after Hilton’s death, fellow Lathrup Village Police Officer Detective Scott McKee learned of the family’s tough financial situation in the aftermath of the tragedy. During final funeral arrangements a LEIN message was sent out asking if officers were interested in helping the family pay for the wake. McKee was the contact person and immediately inundated with responses and financial commitments from dozens of local police associations across the state. One reserve officer donated thousands of dollars and when local businesses heard about the family’s plight, they immediately lent their support. As always, when the “Warthogs” heard about the request, local chapters of the police motorcycle club continued their reputation of being there when an officer needs help.
The financial and emotional support couldn’t have come at a better time for his widow, Mary. She later admitted that at the time, her heart was broken and full of anger. “The support from all of his friends filled my heart and I knew that what he did was right,” said Mary. “I am proud to have been married to such a great soldier and hero and especially touched by everyone’s kindness.” Scott McKee has seen how the law enforcement family comes together to help each other in times of need, but had to admit that this support was overwhelming and much more than he could ever have dreamed of. “Officer Hilton was an outstanding soldier, police officer and individual that you could always count on,” added McKee. “Just like his fellow officers and their associations that answered the family’s call.”