Since the earliest early human civilizations, wars have torn apart families and left the survivors broken. The pain and horrors felt by victims of war is unimaginable, but being a soldier is worse. It means you have to put your future on the line for the sake of your country. Every soldier and their family are prepared for the worst, but when it actually happens it can leave a wound that is incapable of healing. In the battlefield, soldiers come across countless difficult choices, choices that can affect their lives and the lives of their fellow soldiers. Michael Ollis was one such soldier whose split second decision saved the life of a brother in arms at the cost of his own. This is the story of his valor and the way his ‘brother in arms’ decided to honor him.The 24-year-old from Staten Island was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), Fort Drum, New York. He was fighting alongside a group of Polish soldiers in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan.
Prior to his deployment on January 2013, SSG Michael Ollis had served one tour of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He was expected to come home on October 2013 from his third tour. But an unfortunate incident occurred on August 28 while he was stationed at their forward operating base in Ghazni.
Their base came under attack by a group of Al-Qaeda militants. The attack began with a massive blast from a car bomb. Ten suicide bombers were somehow able to breach the post. Eight of them were stopped by a team of Special Forces soldiers when another suicide bomber emerged from behind a group of containers. He was killed while throwing a grenade.
The last of them emerged from behind some containers and charged at Polish soldier Lt. Karol Cierpica. Ollis stepped in front of Karol, thereby blocking him. The militant’s vest blew… killing Ollis. However, The soldier’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain and Karol’s life was spared.
Michael Ollis received a Silver Star, the third highest military decoration for valor, among other honors like the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Audie Murphy Medallion. He was also awarded the Polish Armed Forces Gold Medal, which is the only defense reward exclusively presented to foreign individuals as a token of appreciation for their outstanding performance and great devotion to supporting the Polish Armed Forces. He also received the Afghanistan Star, the Presidential reward presented exclusively to soldiers as a token of appreciation for their outstanding performance during the service in Afghanistan.
Michael’s parents, Bob and Linda, and his sisters, Kelly and Kimberly, met Karol and his pregnant wife Basha. It was very emotional for all of them and since then they have grown very close. They helped each other through the tough times and now consider themselves part of each other’s families. Kelly made a teddy bear out of some old army fatigues, which Michael used to wear when he was a kid. She sent it to the Cierpicas as a means of remembering Michael. But Karol had already decided how he would honor him.
Karol and Basha named their newborn son Michael in remembrance and honor of the man that saved his father’s life. The news brought tears to everyone’s eyes. We salute Michael for his service and commemorate Karol for honoring Michael in his own way.