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VADM John Mateczun, M.D., M.P.H., J.D., MC, USN (Ret.)

VADM John Mateczun, M.D., M.P.H., J.D., MC, USN (Ret.)

Aug 29, 1946 - Nov 7, 2022

VADM John Mateczun, M.D., M.P.H., J.D., MC, USN (Ret.) - Obituary


ADM John Matthew Mateczun, MD, MPH, JD, USN, MC (Ret) was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 29, 1946 to the late Margaret Ellen and Alfred Joseph Mateczun upon Alfred's return from serving in the Pacific as a Seabee during World War II. John attended Rio Grande High School where he played varsity basketball and football and ran track. John and his older brother, Dr. Alfred Mateczun Jr., were members of 4-H, following in the footsteps of their mother’s green thumb where as teenagers they won five blue ribbons for New Mexico’s best blue corn. In growing and cooking food on their family’s nearly self-sustaining homestead, John developed an indelible love of Hatch green chile, posole and enchiladas. John enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 and completed two tours in the Republic of Vietnam. After his first deployment in 1967-1968 where he fought in the Tet Offensive, John volunteered to be an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist returning to Vietnam in 1969 where he was promoted to Staff Sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism in combat. Following his honorable discharge in 1970, John went on to receive an undergraduate degree and medical degree from the University of New Mexico, graduating with his MD in the same class as his brother in 1978. John is the only graduate from the University of New Mexico to be honored as both undergraduate and School of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus. They both were then commissioned in the U.S. Navy and completed residencies at the Naval Regional Medical Center Oakland, California, John in psychiatry, Al in ophthalmology. During his residency, John received a Master of Public Health from University of California, Berkeley in 1982. His first Navy medical assignment was with the 3d Marine Division, Okinawa, Japan as division psychiatrist. In 1983, John was stationed at Naval Hospital Bethesda, Maryland as the head of consultation liaison psychiatry and director of interns, where he met his future wife, Dr. Elizabeth Holmes, who was the head of the HIV/AIDS mental health program. In his true spirit of the pursuit of knowledge, while Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, he completed the Juris Doctorate program at Georgetown University Law Center in 1988. John was Officer in Charge of a specialized team sent to the Persian Gulf in support of the USS Vincennes after the downing of an Iranian civilian aircraft in 1988, and directed mental health support activities for the crew and families of the USS Iowa in 1989. From 1989 to 1991, John was stationed at the National Naval Medical Center Bethesda, Maryland as Chairman, Department of Psychiatry. He was deployed to Saudi Arabia in Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force in 1991. There, he consulted on the establishment and operation of Combat Stress Centers and was a medical crewmember on the flight that retrieved repatriating prisoners of war in Amman, Jordan. The family then moved to Hawaii from 1991 to 1994 where John worked with the U.S. Marines as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Health Services and Force Surgeon. John deeply appreciated the opportunity to learn about Hawaiian culture and the importance of “ohana,” family, and to share the spirit of Aloha. After Hawaii, John worked as Special Assistant to the Asst. Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs as the Principal Director (Clinical Services) and the first Chief Medical Officer for TRICARE Management Activity. In 1998 John became the Commanding Officer of Naval Hospital Charleston, South Carolina. On September 11, 2001, John was stationed at the Pentagon as the Joint Staff Surgeon for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On that day he was the senior medical officer at the Pentagon and led the medical response to the terrorist attack, directing aid and helping triage casualties. He subsequently served on the Joint Staff during Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. From 2003 to 2005, John was the Commander of Naval Medical Center San Diego where he deployed more than 1,000 medical personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan and deployed the military medical crew of the USNS Mercy in response to the tsunami in Sri Lanka and Thailand. He also led the development of the Combat Casualty Comprehensive Care Center, the first of its kind. John then moved back to the Maryland region where he became the Deputy Surgeon General of the Navy at BUMED from 2005 to 2007. In 2007 John was selected to be the Commander of Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical where he executed the largest and most complex Base Realignment and Closure project in the history of the Department of Defense, the merger of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center Bethesda into the largest military academic medical center and rehabilitation facility, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He also oversaw the construction of Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. While acting as JTF Commander the Harvard Kennedy School of Government conducted a case study of John’s leadership. He helped to ensure the nation’s covenant to provide world class healthcare for wounded warriors. In 2011 John delivered the 144th annual Gettysburg Memorial Day Keynote Address. John visited numerous battlegrounds throughout his life and honored those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that the nation might continue in furtherance of the experiment of democracy and justice for all. After 38 years of military service, John retired from the Navy in 2012. His military awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit with three Gold Stars, and the Bronze Star. He was a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, which presented him with the 2010 Nathan Davis Award for outstanding government service. After he retired, John and his daughter, Laura, walked the Camino de Santiago for a total of 425 miles from Pamplona to Santiago, Spain. John then moved into the world of commercial healthcare management and leadership as Chief Executive Officer for UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans that provided healthcare delivery for three million military service members, retirees and their families. In that role John led a nationwide team of more than 3,000 employees and medical professionals in conjunction with the Defense Health Agency, a Department of Defense organization that he was the first leader of in its initial formation. In 2016, John saw Wagner’s Ring Cycle in its entirety for the third time. He was a believer in the magic of literature from Ulysses, to the Odyssey, and understood the power of art and storytelling to convey meaning and emotion across history. He believed in the inherent good of all people, and would encourage and support all he met to reach their greatest potential in the service of others. A guiding light in times of uncertainty, John provided unparalleled advice, compassion, and a listening ear. He would, without exception, be there to answer your call. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Holmes; his three children, Laura Mateczun and her partner, Nina Kearin, Erin Johnson and her husband, Chris Maruca, and Adam Johnson; his grandchildren, Bradley and Taylor; his brother, Dr. Alfred Mateczun and wife, Cody; his nephew, Alfred E. Mateczun; his niece, Catherine Mateczun and her husband, Mathieu Parent and their children; his sisters-in-law, Maria Raleigh and Carrie (Tom) Reinhert and numerous other well-loved cousins, nieces and nephews. Although they might not all be named, the importance of these people in John’s life cannot be understated. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his nephew, Kevin. John always said that family was his greatest gift, but he was the greatest gift to his family. Friends are invited to celebrate John’s life on Saturday, November 19 from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 pm at the Kalas Funeral Home & Crematory, 2973 Solomons Island Rd., Edgewater, MD where his funeral service will be held on Sunday, November 20 at 1 pm. Interment with full military honors will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers the family asks that memorial gifts be made to the Mateczun Endowed Scholarship for Veterans (610462) at the University of New Mexico. Memorial contributions can be mailed to the UNM Foundation, Two Woodward Center, 700 Lomas Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102 or made online here. Donors, please add to the Comments or Instructions box this information: In memory of John Mateczun, for 610462. Condolences may be made by using the Memories tab on this page.