Monday, January 11, 2010

Marine Cpl. Nicholas K. Uzenski

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Nicholas K. Uzenski, 21, of Tomball, Texas

Cpl. Uzenski was assigned to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan; died Jan. 11, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Matthew N. Ingham and Cpl. Jamie R. Lowe.

A 2006 Franklin High School graduate was killed in Afghanistan on Monday, according to a family member.
Marine Cpl. Nick Uzenski, 21, died in combat, his grandmother Audrey Archibald said Tuesday night.

Three young men ran through the streets of Franklin on Wednesday afternoon in honor of a fallen friend.
One wore a faded shirt that belonged to Marine Cpl. Nick Uzenski, who died Monday fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The three men, Austin Babcock, Zach Jordan and DJ Terry, said Uzenski, a 2006 Franklin High School graduate and avid runner, would have beaten them in a foot race. "He ran every race," Babcock said. "We're not as in shape as he was."

The lettering was wearing away on an old Abercrombie & Fitch long-sleeved shirt worn by Jordan, who touched it reverently after the run as the three men cooled down in the Franklin Fire Department parking lot.

"It just doesn't seem ...," Babcock began.

"Possible," Terry finished.

A community in shock

At 10 a.m. today, bells are set to toll at Aldrich Baptist when the body of the 21-year-old arrives in Dover, Del.

Uzenski's mother, Lisa Uzenski, was notified of her son's death in person by military officials Tuesday. Her mother, Audrey Archibald, is a bus driver for the Franklin Central School District. Archibald informed school officials of Uzenski's death, which has shocked the school community, Superintendent Gordon Daniels said.

"A lot of my staff are just trying to hold it together," Daniels said. "He was such a positive young man."

Although Uzenski graduated 3 1/2 years ago, students also were affected by his death. "A lot of the kids really did know him," Daniels said.

School administrators held a meeting of its crisis team Tuesday and had grief counselors available for staff and students Tuesday and Wednesday. "He was a wonderful young man that everybody loved," Daniels said.

Daniels said the use of the school _ the largest gathering place in the community _ has been offered to the family for funeral services.

No funeral arrangements have been made, according to Linda DeAndrea, Archibald's sister-in-law.

DeAndrea said Archibald and Lisa Uzenski were traveling Wednesday to Delaware under military escort to meet with the Marine's father, Bill Uzenski. Lisa and Bill Uzenski have been divorced for several years, DeAndrea said.

Uzenski's father Bill lives in Bozeman, Mont., with his wife and their three sons. Lisa Uzenski still lives in the area and works at Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care in Oneonta. Nick Uzenski also has two teenage sisters in Montana.

Uzenski aspired to be a Marine from a young age, DeAndrea said. "He was doing what he wanted to do," she said.
Unsung hero

Uzenski was the unsung hero of the varsity basketball team, Jordan said.

Not a regular starter, the 6-foot-tall athlete played the role of the sixth man who would be the first to be substituted onto the court and played a lot of minutes, Jordan said.

His basketball coach, Matt Campbell, who is also Franklin's athletic director, said Uzenski was a committed player.

"He was well-rounded. He was a good shooter. He was very intelligent on the court," Campbell said. "He did whatever was asked of him. Even if it wasn't what he was best at, he would try and get it done. From a coaching standpoint, I would love to have 12 Nicks on my team every year."

That tenacity also transferred to the classroom, Campbell said.

"When you lose somebody as special as Nick, it is difficult," Campbell said. "He had a glow. A personality that was unique. He was a special young man. He was extremely polite. You couldn't find anybody that had a negative thing to say about him."

Uzenski, whose father and uncle served in the Marines, had a way of walking and an aura of discipline while he was in high school that hinted he would someday be a Marine, Campbell said.

Uzenski's death has shocked the entire community, said Franklin Mayor John Campbell, Matt Campbell's father. "It's very tragic," Campbell said. "He was a good kid. You hear it every day, of men losing their lives. But this has really hit home."

Campbell said he is planning a community wide effort to place a monument in a local park to honor Uzenski and other Franklin residents who lost their lives in service to their country.

The Department of Defense lists Uzenski's address as Tomball, Texas, and his friends said he lived there for a short time with his father.

Recon Marines must be screened for the special duty and receive advanced training such as airborne school. They are typically tasked with observing and reporting on enemy activity.

Uzenski had arrived in Afghanistan in late fall and was to be home at about June. He turned 21 on Dec. 30, Archibald said.

Marine Cpl. Nicholas K. Uzenski was killed in action on 01/11/10.

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