Random Mental Messes

Stories from my past and present... random musings often inspired by the radio... and a way to keep close with loved ones far away.

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Location: Loveland, CO

Just a gal, just a mom, just trying to make it through the night...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sgt James Witkowski

I was going to cut-and-paste parts of an e-mail I received, into my blog. I asked the sender's permission, and he said it would be fine, that he had written it with the intention of bringing Wit's memory to as many people as he could reach. Joey is one of my soldiers, one that I don't contact nearly often enough, but one that holds a special place in my heart. And Wit... Wit was born exactly eight months before I was, and he is special to Joey, so he is special to me. Here, uncut and unedited minus the sign-off, is Joey's e-mail:

"Sgt James Witkowski, A Soldier of the 729th Trans CO, 1173rd Trans CO, 181st Trans BNS, LSA Anaconda, Balad Iraq was killed in action on the 26th of October north of Ashraf Iraq while conduction convoy security operations. Sgt Witkowski, "Ski", was born January 20, 1973 to James and Barbara Witkowski of Phoenix, Arizona. He attended Arcadia High School, where he proceeded to Arizona State University, Completing general education Courses. Ski enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve at the age of 29 in 2002, deciding to support the war on Terrorism after the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. After completing Basic Training and 88M Motor transport operator school he was assigned to the 257th Transportation Detachment in the 63rd Regional Readiness Command in Tucson, Arizona. Like many soldiers, Sgt Witkowski was cross-leveled into the 729th Transportation Company in Fresno, California, for deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III. In June of 2005 Sgt Witkowski and 13 other soldiers of the 729th TC were attached to the 1173rd TC to assist with Gun-Truck missions. Sgt Witkowski was assigned to 3rd Platoon. He is survived by his Mother, Father and Sister. His Awards include The Bronze Star, Purple Heart, The Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War On Terror Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge, and Drivers Badge. Because of his heroic actions during the ambush where he performed with marked distinction, Sgt James Witkowski was recommended for the Silver Star. On the 26th of October, Sgt Witkowski and 14 other soldiers from the 729th and 1173rd left with a military convoy headed north past ashraf toward outpost sues. North of Ashraf they encountered a complex ambush starting with multiple IED's, Rpg's and followed with concentrated Small arms and machine gun fire. Every soldier on that convoy kept a cool head, but no more than Sgt Witkowski. As a gunner he began laying down surppessive Heavy Machine gun fire enabling the convoy to continue to move out the area. A hand grenade made its way into the turret from the enemy and using his body to stop it from entering the vehicle and to suppress the blast Sgt Witkowski continued to lay down fire while yelling for the other three occupants to get down. He was killed instantly. Due to his heroic efforts, and those of all soldiers on that convoy, Sgt Witkowski was the only soldier killed, with only a few more minor injuries. Countless soldiers lives were saved by him. Usually the enemy uses "hit and run" tactics. This day, however, they were entrenched and prepared for a long lasting battle with road side bombs, rocket propelled grenades, small arms and machine gun fire, and vehicle born explosive were also found. Even under this amazing amount of enemy force and preparedness, the Soldiers of the 729th and 1173rd proved victorious and courageous under fire.Personally, I think Ski was about as a guy could be. Ski was as technically proficient and knowledgeable of the M2 .%50 Caliber Machine gun as any person I know. He took his job seriously and cared for every soldier out here. He was also a comedian and cutup. He loved to play his xbox to the wee hours of the morning, and throw the football around the motor pool. We were usually the last two guys to leave the motor pool after a mission because he always checked his vehicle over before we turned it in. Ill always remember walkin back to the hooches with him, dip in his lip, head phones dangling over his ear and a smile on his face. The job we do is dangerous, but we choose to do it, and do it well. It takes a bit of a loony to sit in a turret and expose your self to IED's and bullets, but its the job we do. A man wiser than me said that every soldier knows fear, but the more intelligent you are the more you can respect that fear and carry one. Bravery isn't the lack of fear, its the courage to be scared and do what needs to be done anyway. James Witkowski was my brother and my friend. I wont mourn for his loss, but I will keep the fire of his torch bright in my memories. The night he died I had the honor to render Salute to his flag draped coffin as it was loaded on the plane to take him home. Today, the 1st of November we had a memorial service for him. Every one from the 729th and 1173rd were present, along with members of the 181st trans BNS. After the chaplain opened with a prayer, SPC Castanda of the 729th TC sang the national anthem accapella. His service record was read and then Company Commanders from both units said a few words. Then the 1SGT's of both units did the Last Roll Call memorial:Witkowski?Sgt Witkowski?Sgt James Witkowski?At this time the Honors Firing Team lead by Sgt Stem along with Sgt Bumgarner, Sgt Chavez, Sgt Ortiz, Spc Nedd, Spc Rojas, Spc Suchowski, and Spc Terpstra fired 3 volleys. 2 of 7 rifles, and the last with 6. The 20 gun salute is a time honored tradition of honoring our lost.After the volleys were complete Taps was played. After a closing prayer they presented a small video with pictures of Ski at his best. Rest in Peace Sgt James Witkowski, 20 January 1973 to 26 October 2005.From this I take strength and courage. I can only hope to be half a soldier Ski was. I hope that each of you who read this know how much I love you and how happy I am to know you. If for the next 45 days or the next 45 years. God Bless each of you and stay safe.Psalm 23The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. He Leads me in the path of Righteousness for His Name's Sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I fear no evil, For Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou annointest my head with oil: My cup over flows. Surely goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I dwell in the House of the Lord Forever and ever, AMEN AMEN."

These, ladies and gentlemen, are the men who are serving our country. We're approaching the holiday season. For most of us, there will be time with family and friends, gifts and parties and baked goodies everywhere you turn, carols on the radio until you can't stand to hear "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" one more time... for Wit's family, their first Christmas without their son and brother. For Wit, the first in the immediate presence of his Father, of this I have no doubt. And for many hundreds of thousands of troops out there, a Christmas away from their parents, children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. For some this will be their first; for many others, their families have learned to adjust to holidays without them. If you want to know how to help make the holidays brighter for some of these fine young men and women, you know how to reach me. If you choose not to, at least please, please keep them in mind this holiday season, and appreciate the freedoms they defend. You may or may not agree with why they're there - but men like Wit have given their lives just about every day for the last three years, and it's you and I that reap the rewards.

May the deity of your choosing bless you, today and every day.


Anonymous Jane_pa2005 said...

Sara, thanks for repeating Joeys email in your blog so that others can share in knowing the hero, Sgt. James Witkowski".

Thanks also for your beautiful comments...everyone needs to be reminded that our troops are making sacifices for us. My heart breaks that they can't all be home for Christmas. ~jane

6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with us in Arizona. We appreciate knowing how much Jimmy meant to the soldiers he was with in IRAQ. To know that he was with people who loved him as much as we do, is a comfort to his friends and family.

"Live for Jimmy"

9:13 AM  
Blogger SaraSmile said...

You know, when you go out there and put YOUR ass on the line, THEN you can comment about it. Otherwise keep your mouth shut about MY FRIENDS.

7:53 PM  
Blogger SaraSmile said...

An explanation of my previous comment... someone decided to make a comment I found inappropriate and discouraging. Before I realized how to delete it, I made one of my own in anger. Still, I'd rather leave my own response up, lest someone decide to try a comment like that again.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for putting that out there. I was apart of the 1173rd and didn't get to know Ski as well as every one else, but the little time I did spend with him was great. Im sure he's still tell jks and laughing as hard as he can. He is missed.

6:51 PM  
Blogger SaraSmile said...

Then thank you, more than I can adequately express, for your service and your sacrifice. If you ever need anything, you know where to find me... right here.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sara, Thanks so much for putting Joeys E-mail in your Blog and for your commitment to our troops. Would you please E-mail me so I can thank you and so I can find out exactly who Joey is.
Ski's Mom & Dad

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

257th Transportation,
This is his company. He was proud of this company. I ask all of you NOT to relate him to the 1173rd.
The 1173rd is from Virginia. The 1173rd should in NO way have their names related to the Military. Mr. Witkowski is a HERO in my book but should NOT be in anyway put in the same book as the lower division of the 1173rd. Hold Mr. Witkowskis' name high, do NOT lower him to the 1173rd.

6:57 PM  
Blogger SaraSmile said...

Sorry, dear, but I have friends in the 1173rd and that's not "lowering" him at all.

8:02 PM  

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