September 11 ushered in two new wars for the current generation: The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Men and women enlisting found themselves overseas, fighting terrorists.
We sat down with an Army Ranger who played a role in the first-ever POW rescue since World War II.
It’s the final piece of our week-long series – Generations at War.
Former Army Ranger Matthew Doyle served as a sergeant in one of the most lethal and elite special-operations forces – the 75th Ranger Regiment.
“In special operations, you’re moving, moving, moving,” Doyle said. “We’re there to do a mission; we’re going to do that mission.”
Missions that have far more impact than just an end result.
“Over time you start to learn it’s not just a mission, it does have some emotional aftermath,” he said.
Aftermath, he could never have predicted when he enlisted in 1999.
“We really didn’t know the reality of what war was.”
September 11, 2001, saw the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil. It changed everything.
First, Doyle was deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where he said they would get mortared every single night.
Then on April 1, 2003, he was part of the rescue of Army Private Jessica Lynch, the only one to survive after her convoy was ambushed near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
“Rescuing Jessica Lynch was the mission, getting those bodies, that was a mission,” he said.
Doyle led his Ranger team to recover the bodies of American soldiers who were part of her convoy.
In a gruesome scene of having to do what needed to be done, he said, “We thought they were actually going to be in the hospital, in the morgue, but now they’re buried in a field. So we dug with the only thing we had, which was our hands,” he said.
They were all in. No giving up. No matter what.
Doyle described that day, saying, “You’re dry-heaving, you’re in a hole, you’re out of the hole, you’re throwing up, you’re coming back in the hole and just doing this until we got everybody out because we never leave a fallen comrade behind.”
But Doyle says the memory resurfaced in flashbacks when it was deathly quiet, just like Nasiriyah, “My hearing starts to get amplified, then my heart rate starts to go up, I start sweating and that’s when the real bad stuff kind of happens that I always talk about. I start tasting death.”
Doyle was discharged for post-traumatic stress disorder in 2004 and moved to Naples, close to family.
“As soon as you get out it all of a sudden it’s, you pull the reins, and it’s like ‘what did I do?'” He said. “I was drinking a lot, and then I had to get control of my life again.”
He started competing in triathlons and earned medals using the same discipline that made him a decorated warrior.
Doyle also joined the Naples Police Department in 2005, now with the rank of sergeant, handling a lot of the training at NPD, “It was easier to transition I would say to a civilian law enforcement job from the military… It is different, but it has a lot of similarities.”
Among the most important, it’s another chance for him to serve and protect our country and our local community.
But Doyle is not stopping there. He just earned his MBA from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
He’s aware those war memories can resurface but says he can feel it coming now, and quickly head it off at the pass.
He says meditation, yoga, mental training techniques, and continuing to compete in triathlons really helps.
Doyle also started an elite race team to reach out to other rangers who may be experiencing the same struggles he did.
Generations at War Series
- WWII veteran recounts his time as a B-26 Bomber pilot
- 100-year-old vet, wartime navigator shares relics from WWII
- A local ‘Rosie the Riveter’ on women’s roles during WWII
- Army combat engineer on supporting the frontlines in WWII
- Korean War tank commander talks about fighting for freedom
- Vietnam Vet and POW shares his story of survival after over 5 years in captivity