Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Always Remembered and Honoured Major Matthew P. Houseal

Maj. Matthew P. Houseal, 54, of Amarillo, Texas. He was assigned to the 55th Medical Company, Indianapolis, Ind.;

Dr. Matthew Houseal had enlisted as an Army reservist to lend his expertise as a psychiatrist to fellow soldiers after becoming alarmed by the rising suicide rate in the armed forces, a friend and business associate said Wednesday.

Houseal, an Amarillo resident who was the father of seven children, was killed Monday along with four others when a fellow soldier opened fire at the mental health clinic staffed by Houseal in Baghdad.

"He felt he could go over there and help," said Chris Custard, who leased hunting land in the Panhandle from Houseal.

Houseal, 54, worked the last 12 years as a psychiatrist for Texas Panhandle Mental Health Mental Retardation in Amarillo. (MHMR, which previously released information about Houseal, had said that he had six children; but the public affairs office at Fort Hood clarified that he actually had seven.)

His wife, Luzma, 45, is a nephrologist, or kidney doctor, in Amarillo.

He served in the Navy Reserves for a number of years and approached that branch to see if they needed his psychiatry skills. When the Navy declined, Custard said Houseal then approached the Army Reserve.

"I just feel I need to do it," Custard recalled Houseal's response when asked about his service.

U.S. soldiers killed themselves last year at the highest rate on record, the toll rising for a fourth straight year and surpassing the suicide rate among comparable civilians.

Houseal was deployed in January and was just weeks away from ending his tour and returning to Amarillo.

"As best I understood, he was expecting to return probably the first of June," Custard said, adding that he had an e-mail correspondence with Houseal about a month ago.

It was Houseal's first stint in Iraq, Custard believed, but that could not be confirmed Wednesday by the Army Reserve.

Neighbors, friends and colleagues this week remembered Houseal as a private person.

A note was taped to the front door of the home in rural north Randall County on Wednesday that said the family didn't want to comment at this time.

Former co-workers praised his skills as a psychiatrist.

"He was dedicated to his patients. He was a family man, very thorough diagnostician," said Bud Schertler, executive director of Texas Panhandle Mental Health Mental Retardation. "We couldn't ask for a better psychiatrist."

An education fund has been established to benefit Houseal's children.

"Maj. Houseal was a beloved, kind and generous physician and soldier, who volunteered for additional duty in Iraq to care for our servicemen and women," said William Biggs, an Amarillo endocrinologist who works in the same group as Houseal's wife. "To honor the memory of Major Houseal, we have established an education fund for the benefit of his six children."

Dr. Son Nguyen, another Amarillo psychiatrist, offered his sympathy to the family Wednesday. "I know him fairly well," Nguyen said. "But I am unwilling to say anything out of respect for the loved ones."

Houseal would walk his children around his ranch to show them the outdoors, Custard said. "I know he loved his kids," Custard said. "That was very evident when he spent time with them."

The 54-year-old was the oldest of Helen and William Houseal’s nine children, many of whom still live in the southwestern corner of the state.

“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of a son, who was serving people in need,” Houseal’s youngest sibling, Maria Houseal, said today on behalf of their parents.

Major Houseal is survived by his wife, Luzma, who is also a physician, his parents Helen and William, his 8 siblings, one of whom is Maria, and his seven children.


[This profile courtesy of the Living Legend Team, Soldiers' Angels]

No comments: