Monday, August 27, 2007

Army Sgt. Jan M. Argonish

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Jan M. Argonish, 26, of Peckville, Pa.

Sgt. Argonish was assigned to the 55th Brigade, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Scranton, Pa.; died Aug. 27, 2007 at Forward Operating Base Naray, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit during combat operations in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Also killed were Maj. Henry S. Ofeciar and Master Sgt. Scott R. Ball.

Homecoming of a hero

Sgt. Jan Argonish, who died Monday in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, was brought home amid the blare of sirens from police and fire engines, and the rumble of about 60 motorcycles that formed a nearly milelong motorcade that also included family and friends.

It began in Delaware and made its way from the Pennsylvania Turnpike onto Interstate 81, through Scranton and into Peckville for Sgt. Argonish's final homecoming.

After the motorcade emerged along Route 247, the Friends of the Forgotten, a group devoted to honoring the nation's fallen soldiers, helped lead the procession through Jessup and Blakely and onto Electric Street in Peckville to Sacred Heart Church.

As the hearse passed, dozens wept and saluted. Tears grew more intense as Sgt. Argonish's flag-drapped coffin was removed from the gray hearse outside the church. Family members, including Sgt. Argonish's 8-year-old son, Jacob, hugged each other and friends.

"This is almost too much to take," Mindy Marinchak, a Blakely resident said. "This is such a homecoming. One, I know the family will never forget and one I certainly will not."

Gov. Ed Rendell ordered all Pennsylvania flags at state facilities in Lackawanna County and in the Capitol Complex be flown at half-staff until after today's funeral.

The 26-year-old Scranton resident and graduate of Valley View High School in Peckville was on a resupply mission when a six-vehicle convoy he was part of came under attack. Sgt. Argonish was serving with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's 55th Brigade and had volunteered to be part of an embedded training team helping the Afghan National Army.

He was a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as a correctional officer at the U.S. Penitentiary Canaan in Waymart.

During a viewing held later Friday, more than 1,000 people waited in line for hours to pay their respects. Inside the church, a number of photos of Sgt. Argonish were placed on a stand at the church's entrance. In the rotunda where his body lay in a closed casket, family and friends watched a video tribute.

"The sad irony of such a great homecoming is that the person it is done for is not alive to see it," said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., who stood in line for nearly three hours to pay respect to Sgt. Argonish's family.

Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty also waited nearly three hours in a line that stretched two blocks. "To (pay respect), I don't mind the wait," Mr. Doherty said.

Sgt. Argonish's older brother Nick Argonish said he and his family were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love.

"There were people along the streets, people that knew Jan and people that didn't know Jan," he said. "It was just an amazing homecoming for him. And I'm very proud to be his brother."

Funeral services are scheduled this morning at 10 at Sacred Heart Church, 1101 Willow Street in Peckville.

In memory

Blakely Borough Mayor Jeanette Acciare-Mariani is requesting all residents display their flags today in honor of Army Sgt. Jan Argonish. Mrs. Mariani also proclaimed Sept. 1, 2007 as "Sgt. Jan Argonish Day," in "recognition of his heroism and the impact he had on our borough."

Army Sgt. Jan M. Argonish was killed in action on 8/27/07.

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