Whether he was with his fellow soldiers in Iraq or at home with his family, Matthew Gerald's life was spent in service to others.
As a young man in the '90s he served four years as a Marine, attaining the rank of corporal. He rejoined the military in 2002 and deployed to the Middle East with the U.S. Army three times, working as a Black Hawk helicopter crew chief and earning many decorations, including four Air Medals.
Most recently Gerald, 41, became a Baton Rouge Police officer. He started with the department last year and, according to a neighbor, had just gotten his own squad car a few weeks ago before he was gunned down in Sunday's attack on law enforcement officers. Also killed in the attack were sheriff's deputy Brad Garafola, 45, and city police officer Montrell Jackson, 32. Three others were injured, one seriously. The assailant was later killed.
One was once injured trying to save a toddler from a burning building. Another helped chase …
Gerald's cousin said the fallen officer was a role model to others. He didn't show up to work just to punch a clock, Jaylan Gerald said of his cousin, who had a passion for service and wanted to do what he could to help others.
Matthew Gerald was a man who found a way to do what he loved, his cousin said.
"He was so proud to be in the uniform," Jaylan Gerald said of his cousin's military career.
Gerald's family has mourned his death largely out of the public eye, and law enforcement officers on Monday guarded their house and the privacy the family sought. Several of the neighbors near their Denham Springs home had affixed blue balloons to their mailboxes in a show of solidarity.
In a Monday press conference, Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie praised Matthew Gerald as a "devoted husband and father of two."
Dabadie also praised Gerald's work in the military and on the force.
"He spent his whole life serving his country and this city," the chief said.