A true love story on this Valentine’s Day:
Air Force Col. Donald Matthews (Feb. 22, 1919 – June 9, 1994) and U.S. Army 1st Lt. Rita Matthews (May 14, 1921 – April 27, 2011) whose love of country, service to others and love of one another sustained them through 50 years of marriage, nearly 30 years of combined military service and 10 duty stations.
Donald joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a pilot in and later the Air Force. During his military service, he flew missions over North Africa and was stationed in France and Germany during the 1950s and 1960s. He served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was most proud of his time serving in the Air Rescue Service, where the motto is “So Others May Live.”
Rita served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. She was one of the nearly 59,000 American nurses who served during the war. The nurses worked closer to the front lines than ever before and were an important part of the “chain of evacuation.” Rita’s service included seven crossing of the North Atlantic during the war, running dark at night to avoid the U-boats while tending to troops by flashlights.
Their love story began at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where Don was in the dispensary with a foot injury and Rita tended to him. She wasn’t interested in dating at the time, but he pursued her and their first date was over a pizza pie. They were married in 1944 at the Fort Dix Chapel. Years later, they returned to McGuire when Don was the base commander. They celebrated their 25th anniversary with the same chaplain who married them years earlier.
Through it all, the Matthews’ show that love can endure.