MILWAUKEE -- Fallen Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner not only served his community, he also served his country. Officer Rittner served at least six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves as an infantry rifleman -- and deployed to the Middle East multiple times.
On Thursday, Feb. 7, friends and fellow Marines who served with Rittner remembered the war hero. This, after the 17-year Milwaukee Police Department veteran died after he was shot while serving a search warrant for the illegal sale of drugs and firearms near 12th and Manitoba Wednesday morning. He was a part of MPD's Tactical Enforcement Unit for 10 years, after starting with the department as a police aide in 2001.
Officer Rittner left behind a wife and young son. He was 35 years old.
Those who served with Sergeant Rittner said he was the Marine every Marine wanted to be. He was also a great friend and a loving dad.
"It's still not true to me. There's no way it's true," said Max Zubura.
For Lackey and the Marines who served with Sgt. Rittner, his death has been difficult to understand.
"To be doing a search warrant and have your life taken so abruptly without a fighting chance is what hurts me the most," said Zubura.
The Greenfield native joined the Marine Corps in 2003 and deployed to Iraq for the first time about a year later. The rifleman was part of Operation Phantom Fury. He drove an unarmored truck through some of the most dangerous parts of the country. His 20-man unit was ambushed, and fought off roughly 100 insurgents in a deadly four-hour firefight.
"There are definitely people walking around today because of the actions he took," said Lackey.
Rittner was also the life of the party, known for making his buddies smile, even on the ugliest days of war.
"You couldn't ask for a better Marine to stand next to," said Zubura.
The battle tough Marine served with honor, courage and commitment -- and with a tender heart. Lackey said his fellow Marines plan to share Rittner's legacy with his young son.
"To make sure he knows the amount of lives that are here because of his dad," said Zubura.