Matthew Lane Gerald, 41, enlisted in the Marine Corps in New Orleans and served four years in the service from 1994 to 1998. He worked as a food service specialist and achieved the rank of corporal, according to information provided by a spokeswoman for the service.
While in the Marines, Gerald served in duty assignments in San Diego; Camp Pendleton, California; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; and Twentynine Palms, California. He received the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal
Several years later, Gerald entered in the Army, serving from 2002 to 2009, including three tours of duty in Iraq. He repaired UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters and achieved the rank of specialist. He spent most of his time in the Army with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, according to the documents.
While in the Army, he received numerous awards, including four Air Medals, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, three Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, Army Service Ribbon with two Overseas Service Ribbons and the Combat Action Badge.
Friends remembered him as an energetic, loving father of two children, according to news reports. He had been serving as an officer in the Baton Rouge Police Department for less than a year when he was killed, according to the department. He was assigned to the Uniform Patrol Bureau.
"After three tours, not a scratch on him. Comes back home, chooses a job to serve others, and this is what our society does?" his friend Nick Lambert, who served with Gerald in the Army, told The Washington Post. "It's a coward's way to make a statement."
Police say Gerald and the two other officers were shot by Gavin Long, who was also a former Marine who spent time in Iraq and was discharged at the rank of sergeant in 2010. The shooting came just days after an Army veteran who spent time in Afghanistan shot and killed five police officers in Dallas. Both gunmen, who were black, were killed by law enforcement officials.
The shootings perpetrated by black assailants with military backgrounds were seen as retaliatory violence in the wake of high-profile deaths of unarmed black men killed by police.
A spokesman for the Defense Department on Monday downplayed the military experience of the shooters.