Town manager is proud to be a Navy vet

Published 11:50 am Thursday, March 4, 2021

Navy veteran Tony Matthews was born in Farmville, grew up in Keysville and now makes his home in Lunenburg County following his military service.

Matthews served a little more than five years in the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of petty officer third class.

During his teenage years, Matthews worked on his grandfather’s farm with all 13 of his cousins.

Tony Matthews

“We really were like one huge family having Sunday lunch and dinner at my grandparents’ home in Ontario every Sunday. We learned to depend on each other and what true family values are.” Matthews said.

Matthews said that his grandfather and other family members played a big part in making his military career a success.

“Some of the biggest lessons I learned were actually embedded in my mind and DNA before the military,” Matthews said. “My grandfather used to recite to us often ‘Once a job is first begun, never quit it till it’s done. May the job be big or small, do it well or not at all.’  My cousins and I heard that over and over again, and we carried it with us.

“We all learned valuable lessons about hard work, dedication, perseverance, respect, honor, trust, and being a good person.”

During high school, Matthews was part of the JROTC and decided to choose the U.S. Navy. He wanted to work on airplanes.

“The movie “Top Gun” may or may not have had some influence on me,” Matthews said.

After high school, Matthews joined the U.S. Navy in August of 1991. 

He attended boot camp in Chicago.

Following graduation, Matthews was stationed in NAS Millington, Tennessee where he studied aviation electronics working on radar, radios, and communication systems.

“This school was 10 months long and second in difficulty only to submarine warfare,” Matthews said. “I was lucky enough to graduate number two in my class, and that meant I got to pick my orders second from the list that was available. I chose one close to home and was stationed at NAS Norfolk and assigned to VAW-120, which trained pilots and to fly and operate the E2-C aircraft, which is the plane with the big disk on top. That’s how most know it.”

According to Matthews, the E2-C aircraft is outfitted with equipment that can track aircraft and ships, coordinate ground, air and sea warfare identify enemy ships, planes and vehicles and communicate all of that back to those making the decisions from a command post. 

Matthews said following that training, he became qualified as a final checker on board an aircraft carrier, which was the most fun experience he had.

“A final checker is an airman on the deck of the carrier that does the final check of the aircraft before it launches from the deck of the carrier,” Matthews said. “Of course, the adrenaline was high in this job, but nothing beats being able to be launched, catapulted and land trapped on board an aircraft carrier. This makes any ride that you have ever experienced at an amusement park a cakewalk. I love this.”

During his time in the Navy, Matthews said one of the hardest parts for him was being separated from his family and not being able to see or talk to them from time to time, but that time also taught him independence and self-reliability.

“It also taught me to value the lessons that I was taught on my grandfather’s farm and around his table on Sundays,” he said. “It taught me that a job well done is rewarding personally and rewarded when completed correctly.” 

Matthews said he values his military experience, to the point that he wishes he had stayed in sometimes.

“First off, because I would have retired at 38, but I had pride in my job,” he said, “I was very proud to be a military man and am equally as proud to be a veteran.”

The Navy veteran said he learned many things about our country during his military service.

“It taught me that there are a lot of people who don’t like the military or its members, but there are a lot of people who value them too,” Matthews said. “There are a lot of people who forget to separate the conflict from the person who is serving during it. It taught me that our country goes to great lengths to protect its people from tyranny and terrorism and that most people don’t even take the time to consider that. It taught me that being the best at my job had rewards and benefits, which spilled over into my work ethic.  It taught me that some people might feel forced to lay down their lives for others, but some are willing to do so if only in the name of honor and love of fellow man.

It taught me that sacrifice has rewards, and those rewards are most definitely worth the sacrifice.”

Today, Matthews owns and operates Matthews Lawn Care in addition to serving as the Kenbridge town manager. “I hope to continue my lawn care business and employing young people to teach them responsibility, self-respect, pride in a job done right and financial independence,” he said.

Matthews currently lives in Kenbridge with his wife, Beth.

“We have helped raise eight children, and I say helped because there are too many people behind these great children for me to name or take credit for raising alone,” he said. “It really does take a village, and this community has been with us all along the way, and we are grateful every day for them.”

To see the full Salute to Veterans edition click here.