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Foundation Stories > Veterans United and H.E.R.O.E.S Care Partner to Fulfill Veteran’s Last Wish
A veteran battling cancer shares poignant moment at Cardinals game with his family

COLUMBIA, Mo – The crowd at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis roared with applause June 17, 2013, as veteran Matthew Winkler threw out the first pitch of the game for the St. Louis Cardinals. His wife Amber and their son, Matthew Jr., and daughter, Chloe, joined him on the field to share the unforgettable moment.

Matthew served 12 years in the United States Army, which included four deployements to the Middle East. After returning home,Matthew was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He  began an aggressive battle against the cancer in March 2013, hoping to slow the disease long enough to get a stem cell transplant, the only treatment that could increase his chance of long-term survival.

Cardinals baseball, for Matthew Winkler, holds a special place in his heart.

The last significant memory Matthew had of his father, Noel Winkler, was attending a Cardinals game together when Matthew was only 12-years-old. Shortly after, Noel passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 38.

Being able to give his children a similar positive memory was one of Matthew’s last wishes. Veterans United Foundation set out to make it a reality.

“After hearing the story of Matt’s last memory with his father at a St. Louis Cardinals game, it was especially touching to give Matt’s children that same last memory with their father. It was clear that to them, he was a hero, and it was amazing for them to see an entire stadium recognize Matt as a hero too,” explained Miranda Chapin, Foundation Outreach Coordinator. 

After throwing out the first pitch, the audience honored Matthew and his family with a standing ovation, commending him for his service and sacrifice to our country. This once-in-a-lifetime moment occurred just in time for the Winkler family. On August 21st, 2013, the brave soldier lost his ongoing battle with cancer. He was only 33-years-old.

Before Matthew passed, Veterans United Foundation helped provide the funds to renovate the Winkler’s dream home in Iuka, Ill., with H.E.R.O.E.S Care, a collaborative effort among established non-governmental organizations designed to provide complete, proactive support for members of all military branches and their families.

 “In my 10 years of serving military families, I have never seen a case as compelling as this one,” said Dave Woolley, vice chair of the board for H.E.R.O.E.S. Care. “The employees of Veterans United were able to provide help and hope for the Winklers when it was needed the most.”     

Matthew’s spirit and memory will forever live on. Thank you Winkler family for sharing that with us.

Please see our video below for more information on the late Matthew Winkler




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