Eve Phillips had no way of knowing that when she kissed her husband goodbye in January it would be for the last time.
U.S. Army Cpl. Matthew Phillips was on mid-tour leave and the couple had just returned from a late Christmas vacation with their family in South America.
That last kiss was at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where Matthew Phillips boarded a plane en route to finish his tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Phillips, 27, was just weeks from completing his 15-month tour when he and eight other soldiers were killed in a July 13 attack. They died during a three-hour battle with Taliban militants at a remote base in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
“He was passionate and he loved what he did, and I am confident that when he died he was proud of what he did and was loving what he was doing,” Eve Phillips said.
Funeral services for Matthew Phillips, whose body arrived in Cumming on Wednesday, are scheduled for 1 this afternoon at Coal Mountain Baptist Church.
Eve Phillips said her husband joined the Army in November 2005. They met in April the following year, when introduced by one of her college roommates, Sara Shanks. She said Shanks grew up next door to her husband and his family in Hall County.
“It was love at first kiss,” she said. “We dated about six weeks before we decided that we wanted to get married.”
She said that although her husband was considering continuing his career in the military, they had plans to make their home in Cumming.
A graduate of North Forsyth High School, Eve Phillips now teaches at her alma mater. She said the community has “helped with the healing process and they’ve made his sacrifice more meaningful with their support.”
“They have validated the sacrifice that he made,” she said.
Her father-in-law, Michael Phillips of Dawsonville, said the family was grateful for the outpouring of community support.
“It seems like everyone is in pain,” Michael Phillips said. “They’re supporting Matthew. And the reception (Wednesday) at the airport and the motorcade through Gainesville and Forsyth County was overwhelming.
“Matt is a hero. He’s our hero and apparently he’s a hero to a good portion of North Georgia, and that’s so inspiring to us.”
Michael Phillips said the Army also has reached out to them.
“Eve and I have both been assigned a casualty assistance officer and those people have been very responsive and sensitive to the situation,” he said.
A decorated soldier, Matthew Phillips was a member of the Army’s 2nd Platoon, “Chosen Company,” 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat team.
Michael Phillips said his son was confident about his assignment before he deployed, though he knew he was going into a dangerous area.
“We’re finding out things that occurred that he was involved in that we had no idea at the time,” he said. “He was one brave young man and I’m honored to have him as a son.”