December 7, 2020

Ms. Rosalind Sargent-Burns
Acting Pardon Attorney
Office of the Pardon Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue - RFK Main Justice Building
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Ms. Burns,

My son is Matthew Thomas, who served a tour in Afghanistan in 2004 – 2005.  I am writing to you in hopes Matthew can get a pardon from the Marines and remove his dishonorable from his record, allowing him to get help from the VA.

Matthew was a special ed student in a high school in New Jersey.  He was small and constantly picked on by the jocks.  He took it with a smile, as part of being in a special needs class.  He even let it slide when after a junior high dance some jocks tied his feet to a flag pole and him pull up, leaving him there.

A Marine recruiter talked with Matthew when he was a senior in high school, asking him to consider joining the Marines.  With his grandfather in WWII, Matthew wanted to do his part to prove he could take it.  I was concerned, wondering why the Marines were interested in a special needs student.

But Matthew wanted to join and soon after became part of an early entry program for the Marines.  I drove him to the pre-training on the weekends, where he finished the program.  On November 10, 2003, he went into the Marines to their boot camp on Parris Island.

After five months he graduated, our picking him up for a two-week leave at home.  I had met his drill instructor.  I figured if Matt could make it through his training, he could make it through anything. 

Matthew was then sent for training to Jacksonville, NC, at a camp there and then later sent to Afghanistan.  He had called us from the airport, saying he was headed overseas and was very exited.  He spoke to me for about 30 seconds, saying had proven himself and was finally part of his bros.

But months later he wrote letters to us from Afghanistan, saying some issues had come up where items we had sent to him were being stolen from his tent, but that he would handle it.  It raised red flags for me of his days in public school.

We discovered along the way that after he was promoted to Lance Corporal, some of the trainees that were with him at Parris Island were now mocking him in country.  An Army staff sergeant, who was working with Matthew’s division and training them on communications, had witnessed Matthew being slugged by those same Marines, their calling Matthew a “shitbag,” his words.

When Matthew came back to Hawaii the same Marines had beat him up a few times when he was alone in the barrack’s bathroom, on one occasion breaking his nose against the toilet.  He had complained to the camp commander, Cooling, whom Matthew said told him to suck it up.  Matthew walked away, seeing no relief from the harassment, probably angering the commander.

To deal with depression from always being picked on in high school, Matthew would go to a music store with booths and play his guitar with others.  And that is what he did in Hawaii.  It was there in a session that he says he picked up someone else’s drink that had codeine in it, which caused him to be late for his post. 

Matthew said he didn’t know the drink was spiked and openly agreed to a urine test to prove his innocence.  But he tested positive.  Matthew told me soon after Commander Cooling brought the men together and referred to one person standing among them was like a terrorist to the United States Marines.  Matthew knew Cooling was referring to him.

Matthew was then charged and sent to the brig, I understand in cuffs.  A month later he was sent home broken with a less than honorable charge on his record. 

Commander Cooling had called me to tell me Matthew was being sent home.  I asked the commander to give him duty around the camp in Hawaii to finish his tour.  But the commander said no and made a strange comment that Matthew’s feet stunk, which he always had problems with wearing white socks when in high school. I then asked about the privates that had beaten Matthew after he had become a Corporal, and the commander said three of them had been removed from the Marines.

I then realized it was probably Cooling, who had those Marines beat him up. I think in the old days they called it a blanket party.

After Matthew was sent home, we helped him contact his state Senator in North Carolina at the time, Senator Elizabeth Dole, our sending her all the information including a hand written letter from the Army staff sergeant that he had seen Matthew being punched by those same Marines, calling him names.

Months later a letter came back from the Senator that his less than honorable would not be removed, the letter then writing thank you for your service in Iraqi Freedom, his reading the letter in the car after grabbing the mail.  He started screaming that they must have never read his complaint, he said the letter thanking him for his service in Iraqi Freedom when Matthew had served in Afghanistan.  I had to drive him back home, fearing he would jump out of the car.

Over the years Matthew went through two divorces and wound up living in an area above a small newspaper building, where he helped them to distribute the newspapers around the town.  Also at the time he had become suicidal at times.  For his pain in the Marines, he wrote the song “Days, Nights and Years,” which you can listen to on the entrance page of my domain.

After going through counseling, he was listed by the State of North Carolina as having PTSD.  However because of his less than honorable, the VA would not help him.  We found a counselor there at the Asheville VA, who told Matthew some people wrote a book to deal with their issues.  And that ended any help from the VA.

Matthew lived with us on and off, his last time staying with us for ten months and then going back to where he grew up in Northern New Jersey to be around his high school friends.  He had a few jobs and enjoyed playing his guitar at open mics. 

One of them I had put on my Web domain’s entrance page, as seen with the screen shot on the previous page of Matthew playing at an open mic.  He eventually became homeless, our having paid the monthly payments on his car for years that eventually became his home, parking near hotels where he could use the restrooms.  He currently has a girlfriend and some shelter, though I believe still temporary. 

At the bottom of the screen shot on the previous page is a link to all the documentation I collected on his journey to get the less than honorable removed, which included meetings with U.S. House of representatives that were of little to no help. 

To be able to click on these links on the actual Web page, please go to and scroll down to the screen shot.  At the bottom you will see a link titled, “Dismantling Of Lance Corporal.”  That link will take you to all the documentation obtained in his journey to remove the less than honorable ranking.  To the right of that you will see “Cooling,” which will take you to the news story of his being fired by the Marines.

When Matthew had lived with us, we had watched the movie “Restrepo,” of a temporary Marine position in Afghanistan.  We were amazed, as we watched the movie, of Matthew’s descriptions in detail one after another of Afghanistan and the Marines.

However, I think the best part of Matthew’s time in Afghanistan was his choosing to not go out to drink with the other Marines but instead spend time with some of the Afghan freedom fighters, teaching him parts of their language.

So that is where we are today. 

He has no idea I am writing to you for a pardon for his less than honorable so he can finally get help from the Veteran’s administration.  He tries to keep his spirits up, having worked with Uber for a few years delivering food.  His brothers in New Jersey have given him some help but cannot take him in full time.

I hope you will look into this and consider a pardon for my son, who has carried this burden with him for 14 years since 2006, my believing he should have never been allowed to enter the Marines as a special ed student. 

But he wanted to serve his country, and so he did the best that he could with all that was against him.  Today he still is proud of his services and speaks highly of the Marine Corps.

Finally, please note there is an envelope enclosed that was sent to Matthew to my home in xxxx last summer (2020) addressed to him from the Marines.  I have no idea where the Marines got my address, Matthew having no address at the time the envelope was sent, his living in his car.

Best regards,