Navy SEAL Matthew Leathers
ANGELS CAMP, CA - Local Navy SEAL Matthew Leathers disappeared off the coast of Hawaii during a training mission in February. His father says one of the sacrifices the parents of Navy SEALs make is they can't always brag about their sons the way they might like.
Saturday night, Tim Leathers held to that duty for the most part, but he wanted to share just some of what those who knew Matthew best, loved most about the 33-year-old husband and father.
When the search for Matthew Leathers ended, his fellow Navy SEALs held a memorial service in Hawaii for the family, but it isn't easy letting go of hope.
"Matt's out there somewhere, sitting on a platform of flotsam, growing a beard, catching fish, looking around, going, 'well, I wonder when they'll find me,'" Tim Leathers said.
Leathers has always taken pride in his youngest son's achievements as an ultra-endurance athlete and as an elite warrior.
"It's just hard for me to say that he's not coming back. I cannot reach closure because he's still capable of being out there alive, but at some point in time, you have to face reality," Leathers said.
That's why it's only now the father feels comfortable paying public tribute to the man he says was never out for glory.
"I know that Matt would be right now going, Dad, what are you doing?"
His son's skills as a warrior go without saying, but there was more to him.
"In our family get-togethers, Matthew was a magnet to the children. They loved him," Leathers said, "He had that uniqueness to be the warrior that he is, and yet the human being that he is as well."
Most will never know all there is to celebrate about Matthew Leathers, but those closest to him will hold on to his memory.
"We're going to miss him terribly, but he will live in our hearts forever," said his father.
Sunday in Hawaii, a Navy SEAL group was set to run in a half-marathon to raise money for Matthew Leathers' wife and three
children. Leathers' dad is in the process of setting up a foundation in his son's name to help raise money for the children of all Navy SEALs.