CASTLE SHANNON (KDKA) — Memorial Day is a patriotic occasion, but for some, the day means more than flashing red, white and blue.

“It’s nice to have one complete day to honor our military.”

Patricia Strack lost her son at the end of December.

Matthew Whalen, of Castle Shannon, was a U.S. Army staff sergeant, who served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He survived the years he spent overseas. It was when he came home that the combat soldier suffered a sudden stroke from a brain hemorrhage that ended his life.

“It hurts, and yet, I’m so proud of him and everything he did,” Strack said.

The day Sgt. Whalen was taken off of life support in a Texas hospital, current and former service members lined the halls to salute and honor the 35-year-old. Video of the moving tribute was watched by millions of people all over the world.

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

Strack, who attended the Castle Shannon Memorial Day Parade and Service, said her son did so much in life and in death.

“When Matthew passed, he donated his liver and kidneys to two veterans. So a piece of him lives on in this world,” she said. “I’m very proud of that. I’m very proud of him.”

In the first Memorial Day since his passing, Castle Shannon wanted to honor the sergeant. Monday was declared Staff Sgt. Matthew James Whalen Day in the borough.

“Memorial Day to me is pretty strong in the heart,” Patricia Strack said. “I’m honored. I’m just honored that this day is also for him.”

Heather Abraham