Native son of the ABQ, the vice-admiral of the Navy was at the Pentagon during the attacks of September 11

Native son of the ABQ, the vice-admiral of the Navy was at the Pentagon during the attacks of September 11

Former US Navy Vice Admiral John Mateczun (Courtesy of the Mateczun family)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

US Navy Vice Admiral John Mateczun was at the Pentagon when he was attacked by terrorists who flew an airliner into the building on September 11, 2001.

A doctor specializing in psychiatry, Mateczun immediately began treating the injured.

“We didn’t know if he was dead or alive and it wasn’t until hours after the plane crash that he was finally able to get in touch with the family to let us know he was still alive. “said his son, Adam Mateczun.

It was this event that led Adam to join the Marine Corps. Her father remained in the military until 2012, serving in multiple capacities.

John Mateczun died peacefully at his home in Maryland on November 7. He was 76 years old.

Although he had not lived in Albuquerque since graduating from medical school in 1978, Mateczun returned there regularly to visit his mother and other relatives and friends, and to soak up the scenery and colors of the New Mexico desert he loved so much, said his daughter, Laura Mateczun. .

Growing up in Albuquerque, he attended Rio Grande High School, where he played varsity basketball, football, and ran track, then went to the University of New Mexico and later medical school. of the UNM. In 2015, Mateczun received the dual honor of being named a UNM Distinguished Undergraduate Alumnus and a Distinguished Graduate of the UNM School of Medicine.

In their youth, Mateczun and his older brother, Dr. Alfred Mateczun Jr., were members of 4-H, raising animals, raising bees, and conducting scientific experiments with genetically modified corn on the family’s fertile South Valley property. , said his daughter. Those experiences led to five first-place ribbons at state fairs for New Mexico’s Best Blue Corn and his father’s lifelong love of Hatch Green Chili, posole and enchiladas, he said. she stated.

Laura Mateczun remembered her father as a loving and compassionate family man who carefully considered the opinions of others before offering his own. He was also athletic and continued to play golf and basketball long after his retirement.

“He spoke softly, but spoke forcefully when he wanted to,” she said. “He never raised his voice and was a proud, yet humble man throughout.” And, he possessed a dry wit, “but you had to be careful to realize he was joking.”

Mateczun comes from a military family. His father, Alfred Sr., served in the United States Navy as a Seabee during World War II. John and his brother, Alfred Jr., attended the Air Force Academy. John, however, disliked the engineering-centric curriculum. He left and in 1966 enlisted in the US Army. Both brothers were deployed to Vietnam in 1967.

During his second Vietnam combat tour in 1969-70, John Mateczun became an explosive ordnance disposal specialist. He was promoted to sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in combat – the first of many awards given during his career.

After being honorably discharged in 1970, Mateczun attended UNM School of Medicine, graduating in the same class as his brother Alfred. Both were later commissioned into the United States Navy and completed residencies at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Oakland, California. During his residency, John Mateczun also earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982.

While stationed at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, as chief of consultation-liaison psychiatry and director of interns, Mateczun met his future wife, Elizabeth Holmes, who was head of the HIV/AIDS mental health program. They were married for 34 years.

Holmes, a clinical psychologist, said her husband’s thoughtful, thoughtful nature and aware of his own mortality was partly a result of his time in Vietnam. “After dismantling bombs, he really felt like taking risks was something he knew, but paying attention to his own intuition was the most important thing.”

Over the next few years, Mateczun was steadily promoted and held a multitude of high-level positions, including chairman of the department of psychiatry at Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia; Chief of Staff, TRICARE Health Program, Walter Reed Army Medical Center; Joint Chiefs of Staff Surgeon, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon; Commander, Joint Task Force, National Medical Capital Region; and Deputy Surgeon General of the United States Navy.

At one point, the Department of Defense told Mateczun that “to be promoted, he would have to take a certain course in forensic science,” which was offered at Georgetown University Law Center, Adam Mateczun said. Upon contacting the university, his father learned that “to take the course, he had to enroll in the whole program”.

So he did. “He would work all day, come home and take care of family matters, then burn the midnight oil reading case studies,” Adam Mateczun said. “He got an entire degree studying at night,” and in 1988, at the age of 42, John Mateczun added Juris Doctor to his growing list of degrees.

Besides his wife, son, daughter and older brother, Mateczun is survived by two grandchildren and several nephews, nieces and cousins.

Burial with full military honors will take place at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial donations in memory of John Mateczun may be made to the Mateczun Endowed Scholarship for Veterans at the University of New Mexico.

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