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During his commencement address at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kansas in 1996, Dr. Melvin Cheatham, recounted the following tale:
   At 2 a.m., on June 6, 1944, 1st Lt. Robert Mason Mathias and 16 men in his command were riding in the darkness of a C-47.

   Lt. Mathias was the leader of the Second Platoon, E Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

   Mathias saw the red light go on.  "Stand up and hook up!", Mathias called out.  With machine gun bullets tearing through the aircraft the men behind Mathias kept calling out, "Let's go!".  But it was Mathias' duty to wait, to keep his hands on the outside of the doorway, ready to propel himself into the night the instant the green light went on.

   Then suddenly, a shell went off beside him.  Red-hot flack ripped into his reserve chute and into his chest.  It knocked him off his feet.  With all his strength, he began to pull himself back up.  Then the green light went on.

   With blood streaming from his body, Mathias raised his right arm, and called out, "Follow me!" and leaped into the night.

     "I want you to consider a very important question which Lt. Mathias had only one second to answer." Dr. Cheatham said, "The question is this: 'What are you going to do with the rest of your life?"

[Ed. Note:  The rest of the story:  Mathias died in his chute and has been documented as being the first American officer to have died on D-Day.]

Today Lt. Mathias rests in the St Peter & St Paul Cemetery in Cumberland, MD.  His simple gravestone is of standard military issue and records his death as one day later than it actually occurred.  This error of dating a death is typically due to the Graves Registration personnel documenting the date that a body was discovered in the absence of any witness reports stating otherwise.