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'A perfect father, husband, Marine'

'A perfect father, husband, Marine'

Valentine's Day was the last time Aisha DeYoung spoke to her 26-year-old husband, Marine Sgt. Matthew DeYoung of Talent.

Although DeYoung was engaged in a reconnaissance mission in remote Afghanistan, he accessed a military satellite phone to call his wife on that special day.

"Here he is out fighting in Afghanistan, and he called me on Valentine's Day," said Aisha, 24.

He was teasing her that he wanted another baby, a brother for their 3-year-old daughter, McKenzy.

Aisha (pronounced "Asia"), a nursing student at Los Angeles Harbor College, playfully protested, "I need to finish school." As husband and wife enjoyed the banter, neither realized the conversation would be their last.

DeYoung, assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C., died Friday after he stepped on an improvised explosive device during a battle in Afghanistan. His best friend, Sgt. Lee Harris of Medford, also was involved in the operation, Aisha said. Although both men are from Southern Oregon, they didn't know each other until 2005 when they both were stationed at Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base near San Diego.

"It's very important people know he did not lose his life; he gave it with respect and honor fighting and doing what he did best other than being a husband and father," Aisha said.

In addition to his wife, daughter and best friend, DeYoung is survived by his mother Teddi DeYoung of Phoenix, father Bruce DeYoung of Ivyland, Pa., brother Bryce DeYoung, 19, of Klamath Falls, sister Mandi DeYoung, 24, of White City, sister Taylor DeYoung, 17, of Phoenix, 5-week-old niece Adelyn Wilkins of White City and extended step families.

DeYoung, who graduated from Phoenix High School, joined the Marines in August 2005 shortly before his December marriage to Aisha.

"He wanted to join the military to make sure he could provide and because he felt it was the best thing for his family at the time," Aisha said. "He also wanted to fight for his country. ... He joined the Marines because it's the most prestigious."

He first met Aisha, a Crater High School student, in 2002 through her first boyfriend, who also attended Phoenix High School. Aisha and DeYoung began dating two years later.

"I ran into his sister, (Mandi), a couple of years later, and she said he was in town," Aisha recalled. "That's how we started dating."

Despite the hardship of DeYoung's triple deployments, the first two to Iraq, the couple's relationship remained fun and playful, Aisha said.

Arguments usually took the form of teasing.

"He is my best friend," she said. "We can't stay mad at each other for longer than a few minutes."

DeYoung was first deployed to Iraq as a military policeman from February to August 2006. Then from August 2007 to March 2008, he was sent to Iraq as part of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39. In 2009, he re-enlisted in the Marines and trained for six months to do reconnaissance. He left for Afghanistan last November. The couple kept in touch via Skype when DeYoung was at the military base, but sometimes couldn't communicate for days or weeks when he was on a mission. Aisha told McKenzy her father was off at work "fighting the bad guys."

"She looks just like him, same hairline, eyes, nose," Aisha said.

"He is definitely not a replaceable person," she said. "He is one of kind. He is beautiful. He had this smile. You have to see it."

The phone call on Valentine's Day was characteristic of her husband, she said.

"He was a perfect father, a perfect husband, a perfect Marine," she said. "He was so loving. He was just perfect in my eyes. He had perfect teeth, skin, hair, laugh."

He was a "man's man," yet he wasn't ashamed to carry her purse for her.

They enjoyed pulling pranks on each other.

"He was such a man's man that my favorite thing to do to him was to try to scare him," she said.

When the couple was briefly stationed in North Carolina, she once hid under the dining room table and sneaked up behind him as he walked to their bedroom.

"He couldn't hear me," she recounted. "I grabbed where his ribs were and scared him and said, 'Raa!" The look on his face was just priceless. ... I dropped on the floor laughing.

"He would always get me, too," she said.

DeYoung's body will be returned to Southern Oregon later this week. Funeral arrangements have not yet been confirmed.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

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