Vickie Elaine Fineran leaned into a police officer’s embrace Tuesday as she stood on the Charleston International Airport tarmac waiting for her husband’s casket to be unloaded from a Southwest jet.
She probably dreamed of a different homecoming for Matthew Edward Michael Fineran, 42. After all, it had only been about a week since he was the one embracing her, home from an assignment in Afghanistan for the birth of their second grandchild.
Fineran was one of three Americans fatally wounded Thursday in a shooting at Kabul airport. He hadn’t been back overseas for more than a couple days when the attack occurred, according to Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet.
He was part of a security force with Praetorian Standard Inc., a government contractor, that was working overseas to protect the military. The Pentagon has said that the men were aircraft mechanics and that they were killed at the Kabul airport by a man in an Afghan uniform. The gunman was killed at the scene.
Nisbet said Fineran had been with the contractor for eight months, but worked for other private security companies, including the Blackwater Agency, for the past 11 years. A spokesman for Praetorian said Fineran was not an aircraft mechanic, but could not elaborate.
“He died doing what he loved,” Nisbet said Tuesday. “This was something that was in his blood. He died defending this country, and it’s an unfortunate thing, but a very honorable thing.”
Praetorian of Fayetteville, North Carolina, identified the other Americans slain Thursday as Walter D. Fisher of North Myrtle Beach and Jason D. Landphair of Fayetteville. Bradley A. James, of Atlanta, was wounded in the shooting. He was being treated Saturday for injuries that were considered serious, but not life-threatening.
Nisbet, a family friend, traveled with Fineran’s wife and daughter over the weekend to Dover Air Force Base to be a part of a “Dignified Transfer” from a military plane to a transport vehicle, which then took Fineran and the two other men who were killed to the U.S. Armed Forces Medical Examiners Office.
“I have never witnessed, certainly never been a part of, something as honorable as that (dignified transfer),” he said after arriving home Tuesday. “I don’t know if I was choked up because that was my friend coming home or if it was the honorable way the military handled it.”
Fineran’s family has not yet commented about his death, but Nisbet spoke on their behalf about their experiences from the weekend.
He described it as a difficult time and recalled moving into “work mode” when it came time to positively identify Fineran’s body.
On Monday, the family was given Fineran’s personal effects and Vickie Fineran held her husband’s hand for the last time. On his left hand, where most wear their wedding ring, Fineran had his wife’s name tattooed.
“She had to see that for herself, to realize that (his death) was true,” Nisbet said. “She was actually able to hold his hand and see her name on his hand. That’s when it really hit home that that was her husband, and that was a really difficult day.”
Fineran grew up in the Myrtle Beach area, but has lived in Summerville with his family for at least the past 15 years. He had six children and two grandchildren.
He worked as a K-9 handler with the Summerville Police Department from 2000 to 2004, Capt. Jon Rogers said. Rogers and Summerville Police Chief Bruce Owens have declined to comment further about his time there.
Fisher also was a former police officer in Fayetteville and Landphair had served in the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Nisbet said that after Fineran’s law enforcement career, he had been back and forth from overseas working for private security companies — jobs he dedicated himself to and loved.
“He definitely was the kind of fella I am honored to call my friend because he went above and beyond,” Nisbet said, adding that when Fineran was done with a regular work shift overseas, he could often be found doing more work or helping others where needed.
He said Vickie Fineran always worried about her husband when he was gone, but knew that the kind of work he was doing — helping people — was in his blood.
Fineran “never met a stranger” and became part of what Nisbet described as an international brotherhood of private security officers who dedicated themselves to defending this country.
He added that he could feel the love felt for Fineran just by the number of people who met his family at Charleston’s airport. He said police officers from Summerville, Charleston, North Charleston and the Charleston County Aviation Police Department welcomed them home, as well officers from several private security companies, including Blackwater.
“(Mrs. Fineran) was just overwhelmed by the show of brotherly love,” Nisbet said, adding that a friend Fineran made in Iraq also texted her Tuesday to express condolences. “Matthew touched people all over the world; he was such an amazing man.”
A convoy of police cars escorted Fineran’s body, his family and Nisbet to James A. Dyal Funeral Home in Summerville, which will handle funeral arrangements. A date has not yet been set for memorial services, Nisbet said.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.