Before he died, Craig Matter asked his son to promise he would finish the Boy Scouts program through to the end.
That son, John Matter, kept that promise and went on to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. In addition, the 2018 Stone Bridge High School graduate went above and beyond, being named Virginia’s winner of the Billy Michal Student Leadership Award from the National World War II Museum.
“I was extremely shocked and excited,” John said. “I didn’t even know about the award and didn’t know I had been nominated.”
The Billy Michal Student Leadership Award is awarded every year to one person per state who lives up to the example set by Michal. When he was only 6, Michal helped his one-room school win a statewide contest in collecting scrap paper during World War II.
Matter was nominated – without his knowledge – by Kathleen Quinn, a Boy Scout Troop 761 committee member who knew about Matter’s volunteer effort called Project Starfish.
“It was a volunteer event we did with the troop after the hurricanes last year were doing a lot of damage,” Matter said. “We thought it was a good idea to start a clothing drive, which we did with the whole troop with the help of Salvation Army. We filled a lot of bags and eventually the Salvation Army shipped it off.
“It was really an awesome event. Seeing all those people helping out the victims of hurricanes that they didn’t know, it was really heart-warming.”
Quinn nominated Matter for the award, and found out he had won a few days before Troop 761’s annual awards banquet – the Court of Honor. At the end of that banquet, Quinn sprung the news on Matter.
“She called me up there and said she had a special announcement,” Matter said. “I was standing up there in front of everybody and I still didn’t know what what was going on. She started crying and I was, like, I guess this is a big deal. I am really thankful to her.”
Matter got to travel to the World War II Museum in New Orleans in June for a three-day event called the Spirit Awards. The event wrapped up with the leadership award winners together with the 2018 American Spirit Medallion recipients – Susan Hess, Archie Manning, Adair Margo, “Hank” Greenberg, Gary Sinese and John McCain.
During the event, Leadership Award winners were selected to ask each of the Spirit Medallion winners question. Matter got to ask Manning, a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback out of Mississippi and the father of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning.
“I asked him how he thought his athletic career affected his leadership skill,” Matter said. “He said leadership is important because everyone on a team has to cooperate and you need clear communication. Without that, you really can’t have teamwork.”
McCain, who died Aug. 25, was not able to attend the ceremonies.
“It’s interesting because John’s father had the same kind of brain cancer that John McCain died from,” said John’s mother, Lynn Matter Konwin.
Matter is a freshman at George Mason University. He said he has not yet declared a major but hopes to study engineering and go into cyber security.
He has a family history of military service. His grandfather, Harold Eugene Matter, won the Purple Heart for his service during World War II. He was one of the few survivors from the USS Underhill, which was hit by a Japanese torpedo during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
His stepfather, Crash Konwin, retired as a Colonel from the U.S. Air Force, with Crash being his call sign.
In addition to Project Starfish and his Eagle Scout project, Matter also co-captains a team – named Craig’s Cranium Crusaders in honor of his father – in the annual Race for Hope in Washington, D.C., to raise money for brain cancer research.
“When his father passed away in 2010, he said he really wanted John to stick with it and become an Eagle Scout,” Lynn Matter Konwin said. “John did that.”1 comment