Max Zaruba and Ryan Lackey considered Officer Matthew Rittner one of their closest friends. They all served in Iraq together.
Their lives changed forever Wednesday, after getting that horrible call from a first responder saying Rittner had been shot.
“My whole world crashed,” Zaruba said. “He asked me to sit down, then told me Rittner didn’t make it.”
“All I remember hearing on the phone is that Rittner’s gone,” Lackey said. “It felt like the floor dropped from under me, and it just kind of hit me all at once.”
In that intense moment of grief, they got to work. Lackey began notifying other Marines and friends. Zaruba headed straight to Froedtert.
“I needed to be there to salute Matt on his way into the hearse,” he said.
Zaruba rode with an officer in the procession to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“He was the Marine that every other Marine looked up to,” Zaruba said. “He was someone you wanted in society.”
“What an amazing and brave person he was,” Lackey said. “He was dedicated to perfection in everything he did.”
They say Rittner was proudest of his work as a husband and father. His friends now vowing to help raise his four-year-old son.
“He will be taken care of,” Zaruba said. “If that driveway needs to be shoveled, it will be shoveled. If he wants to go fishing, we’ll take him fishing. It just really, really hurts to know that little boy doesn’t get to experience the Matt that I did. We’ll have to carry on Matt’s legacy to his kid as best we can. We’re here for his whole family. Anything they need.”