Matt Leathers was born on October 4, 1979, in Woodland, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on November 25, 1997, and went on active duty to begin basic training on August 11, 2008. Leathers completed basic training at NTC Great Lakes, Illinois, in October 1998, and then attended Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California, from November 1998 to March 1999. After leaving the program, Petty Officer Leathers attended Navy Sonar Technician A School at San Diego, California, from May to August 1999, and then served aboard the destroyer USS Kinkaid (DD-965) from August 1999 to October 2002. He was then given a second chance to attend BUD/S, and he graduated with his Class in September 2003. Petty Officer Leathers next attended Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training from October 2003 to March 2004, followed by service with SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE at Pearl City, Hawaii, from March 2004 until he was killed in a diving accident at Kaena Point, Oahu, Hawaii, on February 19, 2013. He was not officially declared dead until February 27, 2013, and his body was never recovered from the Pacific Ocean. During his time with SDVT-1, Petty Officer Leathers deployed to Iraq in 2005 and to Afghanistan in 2005 and 2011. He has a cenotaph at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
His 1st Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal Citation reads:
For meritorious service as SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE Element Petty Officer assigned to Naval Special Warfare Unit THREE, Naval Special Warfare Task Unit-Central, and Naval Special Warfare Task Unit-Afghanistan from April to October 2005. Petty Officer Leathers demonstrated superior tactical prowess and exceptional attention-to-detail during sustained combat operations in Iraq. He conducted direct action, combat overwatch, and helicopter reconnaissance operations critical to the overall success of the task unit. Additionally, his efforts directly contributed to the capture of over 13 Anti-Iraqi personnel, recovery of $35.4M in Iraqi Dinar and disruption of Iraqi insurgent networks in Baghdad and Fallujah. He also served as SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE Element Communicator and maintained 100 percent accountability for a communications inventory worth over $500K. By his noteworthy accomplishments, perseverance, and devotion to duty, Petty Officer Leathers reflected credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.