Hemelt: LaPlace student earns Marine officer rank; eyes pilot’s future

Published 12:03 am Saturday, June 2, 2018

He’s wanted to be a Marine since the age of 5.


Matthew Raphael Suarez graduated from the United States Naval Academy last week and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

Matthew Raphael Suarez

He’s officially Second Lieutenant Suarez, according to information sent to L’OBSERVATEUR.

The St. Joan of Arc Catholic School graduate and former St. Charles Catholic student still has years of work ahead of him to reach his ultimate goal, which is serving our country as a Marine Pilot.

When we talked this week, Matthew said there isn’t much time to celebrate because more Marine Corps training in Quantico, Va., is planned. The six-month training introduces officers to the Marine Corp while training them as provisional infantry officers.

It’s a serious task for a serious man.

“The Marine Corp prides itself on being masters on battle tactics and operations,” Matthew said. “You know how to use a weapon, fight in combat and, on that note, every Marine officer knows how to lead men into combat.”

Following the training in Virginia, Matthew heads to Pensacola, Fla., in early 2019 for two-and-a-half to three years of flight school, depending on his progress.

The best part of the work still ahead of Matthew is it should lead to his desired goal of serving in Japan. So, between now and Quantico, 2nd Lt. Suarez has been selected by the U.S. Department of State to spend two months in Japan as part of a total immersion language program.

That’s a lot left to succeed at, but past performance demonstrates Matthew is a dedicated and goal-driven young man.

The son of Juan and Jennifer Suarez, who live in LaPlace, Matthew has already completed four years of intensive academic, physical and professional military training, resulting in a Bachelor of Science degree in History with a minor in Japanese.   

He’s participated in an Anti-terrorism/Force Protection Officer training and attended the National Outdoor Leadership School in Alaska, where he spent a month backpacking in the wilderness.

He was on the USNA Boxing Team for two years where he competed at the National Collegiate Boxing Association Regional and National Championships. He became a Brigade Champion in 2017.

He’s already shaken the president’s hand, as President Donald Trump gave the Commencement Address at his May 25 graduation and greeted each newly Commissioned Naval and Marine Officer, including Matthew, as part of the celebration.

Matthew said the weight of the responsibility the Naval Academy provides is different from counterparts who are also completing their undergraduate studies.

“Where many of my friends save up their money to go out and drink at an LSU tailgate, I’m sitting here making an investment and thinking longterm on how I’m going to approach my Marines and lead them in their daily lives,” Matthew told me.

He already has his eyes on a couple of our nation’s more advanced aircraft to pilot when his training is complete.

The md 22 osprey, twin turbine vertical takeoff helicopter and kc130 jarred – four turbo prop engine plane are in his line of sight should the military need those pilots when his training his complete.

I have a strong feeling 2nd Lt. Suarez earns that chance.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.