Matthew David Garvey, FDNY, USMC

Firefighter Matthew David Garvey, age 37
Died 9/11/01 – Laid to rest, October 30, 2001

Described by marines with whom he served as “…a serious leader who set the example of “getting it right the first time. Never one to hesitate but focused driven to do and apply every effort in completing even the most difficult tasks. ”

“Then-Corporal Garvey was my team chief at 2nd ANGLICO, in the early-mid ’80′s. As a dumb Lieutenant, I learned a great deal about stamina, perseverance, leadership, and teamwork from Matt. He never yelled or shouted, complaints NEVER left his mouth, and he led always by example. I’m a better man for having served with him and it grieves me to know he is gone.”

“Sgt Garvey was my Sgt while in 2nd ANGLICO. All we wanted to do was to be like him. And at the end, if we came close, we were better Marines and better people.”

“GSGT. Garvey was the hardest Marine I have ever met. He was a motivated and dedicated. I know that being a Marine and a NYC Firefighter were the most important things in his life.”

Firefighter, FDNY, Squad 1 this site quotes his bio from the NY Times:

‘It was a life dedicated to the service of the people of America,” said his friend, Rick Helton, who served with him in the Marine Corps.

Matthew Garvey enlisted in 1981 at the age of 18. In his 10-year career, he would make sergeant and become a squad leader in 2nd Anglico, an elite scout team that went into hostile territory ahead of ground troops. He served in Beirut and in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

Mr. Garvey, 37, joined the Fire Department in 1995 and earned his way into the elite Squad 1 unit based in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

He was recently accepted to law school, was an active Marine reservist, studied Kung Fu, played guitar, took photographs, climbed to the summit of Mount Rainier and was a rescue instructor for the Fire Department. Books on his nightstand included: Don Quixote, War and Peace, The Iliad, Moby Dick.

“No one word can describe him,” said his friend and stationhouse mate Gerald Smyth. There are three: New York firefighter.

From Newsday:

Garvey spent more than 10 years on active duty and participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War, where he received numerous awards. He also earned the Navy Marine Corps parachutist insignia, and was certified as a jump master.

Garvey is survived by his mother, Frances, and brother and sister-in-law, Christopher and Donna. Graduate of St. Francis Prep High School, Queens, NY

Reading all of this, I wish I’d known Matthew Garvey, but in a small way, perhaps I do know him, thanks to a nephew.

My son Buster (at age 15) was reading over my shoulder as I compiled this and he mentioned that Matthew Garvey looks quite a lot like one of my nephews, who is also a former Marine who saw duty in the Persian Gulf, and who is currently working in law enforcement. “it’s in the eyes.” Buster said. “His eyes are the same as K’s – they have the same look. You can always recognise a marine or a cop or a firefighter. It’s in the eyes. But, you know, so many of them are Irish – maybe that’s why they look the same.”

We talked about how the Irish – and the Scots – when they came to America, became cops, firefighters, railworkers and skyscraper builders, because those were the hardest, filthiest and most dangerous jobs, and no one else wanted them. Here in New York, and in Boston and other cities, these families almost developed dynasties within the lifesaving and protection professions – whole families entered into that service until to do anything else was almost unthinkable. In fact one of my Elder Son’s grade-school friends is doing that right now; he graduated high school, now he is finishing up his military service and hoping to get into the FDNY, like his father and his grandfather and great-grandfather before him, like his uncles and cousins.

“But,” Buster asked, “why are these Irish fellows, like Matthew Garvey, still so into it? It’s not like the old days where the Irish couldn’t find other work and yet the majority of FDNY and the NYPD personnel are Scots-Irish.”

“Yes, I mused, “and a great many – perhaps a majority – of our armed forces comes from the south, and they’re largely Scots-Irish, too.”

We both mulled that over quietly for a few moments.

“Maybe,” I said, “it’s a combination of getting to do this swaggering, “‘real man” he-man type work, plus the satisfaction of helping others, plus the uniforms and the whole idea of honor and duty that goes along with them.”

“Plus the fact that Irish and Scots seem to be adrenaline junkies who like being on the edge of things; are they self-destructive?” Buster asked, forgetting that he’s half Irish, himself, so the question might be better phrased, “we.”

Maybe they are simply the old-fashioned “mad Irish” who enjoy tempting fate and walking away victorious, or perhaps they like the idea of dying for something noble, worthwhile and greater than themselves: for the benefit of society in general; for all mankind.

Our cops and firefighters do the unthinkable, they do what Christ did. They lay down their lives for strangers – and there is no greater love than that.

Buster looked at Garvey’s picture again and mused, “I still say he looks like K. It’s in the eyes. Maybe what we see, that similarity between Matthew Garvey and K, is that they’ve seen death.”

Or perhaps what we see in their eyes is a love greater than death.

They are the epitome of the gift freely given, and because their gift is free, nothing can ever claim victory over it.

RIP Matthew David Garvey, FDNY, USMC, and thank you for your lifetime of service to the benefit of those you never knew.

May the angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs come to welcome you,
and take you to the Holy City,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.
May the choirs of angels welcome you
and lead you to Abraham’s Side;
where Lazarus is poor no longer
may you find eternal rest. Amen.

“Alas, poor world, what treasure hast thou lost!”
Shakespeare, Venus & Adonis

It is both humbling and an honor to memorialize my fellow New Yorker on this day.

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Wordsmith

    What a fitting tribute to another 9/11 first-responder hero!

    recently accepted to law school, was an active Marine reservist, studied Kung Fu, played guitar, took photographs, climbed to the summit of Mount Rainier and was a rescue instructor for the Fire Department. Books on his nightstand included: Don Quixote, War and Peace, The Iliad, Moby Dick.

    He sounds every inch the warrior-scholar type. And it’s interesting that you and your son talked about his eyes, because a few sentences into your post, I scrolled up and down twice to his photo because I saw something definitely stoic in his expression; and yes, I studied his eyes.

    My tribute is for 3 year old David Gamboa-Brandhorst. I knew one of his fathers, both of whom were killed along with David when Flight 175 was flown into the 2nd Tower.

  • valerie

    My tribute is to a fireman, too – I asked specifically for a fireman because my dad was one (and an Irishman, no less!). Beautiful tribute you have written, dear Anchoress.

  • HNAV

    My heart breaks, even 5 years later…

    So very sad…

  • JMC

    Why do they still do it? It may be more than being adrenaline junkies; I think you’re closer to it with the thing about honor. I can trace back three generations of cops in my Canadian French family. Two of my cousins are cops; their father is a retired cop, and his uncle was a cop. I believe his uncle is of the generation that first migrated to the States from Canada; for all I know, there may be RCMPs in the earlier generations. The point here is, there are very strong familial bonds there. We often make fun of the “You father was a shoemaker, you gonna be a shoemaker” syndrome, but when family bonds are that strong, the sons want nothing more than to follow in their father’s footsteps and are proud to do so.
    The second verse of America the Beautiful says it all:
    “Who more than self their country loved,
    And mercy more than life.”
    We sang that in church the Sunday immediately following 9/11, and those two line, to which I had never paid much attention before, got me so choked up I couldn’t sing.

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  • March Hare

    My tribute to Ezra Aviles who worked for the Port Authority of NY/NJ and died while working to ensure others got out of the buildings safely:
    My other tribute is a poem I wrote some months after 9/11, about that morning. DD#2 was eight years old at the time:

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