Friday, April 09, 2010

Army Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz, 23, of Ramsey, N.J.

Cpl. Jankiewicz was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died April 9, 2010 in Zabul, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when the CV-22 Osprey he was flying in crashed.

A 23-year-old Army Ranger from Ramsey was killed in Afghanistan last week, along with three others, when a U.S. Air Force Osprey crashed in Zabul Province, about 200 miles southwest of Kabul.

On Saturday, Cpl. Michael Jankiewicz’s father, Anthony, went to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive Michael’s body.

“It was just a tragic accident,” Anthony Jankiewicz, of East Stroudsburg, Pa., said Sunday, although Army officials “in the know” have been unable to provide details about the Thursday crash. Two other military personnel and a civilian contractor were also killed in the crash, the tilt-rotor aircraft’s first within a combat zone, according to NATO officials.

A Taliban spokesman initially said militants had shot down the aircraft, but officials in Afghanistan have discounted that claim.

Anthony Jankiewicz said he learned that something had happened to Michael while at work Friday at his trucking firm in Elizabeth. “I only prayed that he was not in the enemy’s hands,” he said.

On Sunday, Michael Jankiewicz’s family said that in his four years in the military, Michael never talked about his work. He was an Army Ranger, a member of the military’s elite rapid-strike force that specializes in covert missions.

“They do stuff they just don’t want the enemy to know about,” Anthony Jankiewicz said. “Michael, being the good Ranger, would only say, ‘I can’t wait to get back to my platoon.’ “

Michael, serving with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, had just left for his second tour of Afghanistan in March, after having served twice in Iraq.

“My brother had a love for this country … he’s a hero,” said his sister, Michelle Jankiewicz, 27, of Midland Park.

Michael graduated from Ramsey High School in 2006. Never the “greatest” student, according to his father, he played a little golf, loved history and knew he wanted to be a soldier as a child. “He could have been 3 years old when he was talking about it,” said his father.

“There were countless times I was called to [high school] counselors who said, ‘He is so damn smart, but he doesn’t want to be here,’ “ Anthony Jankiewicz said. “He kind of thought he knew more history than anybody who worked at the school. He was more into world politics, a history buff. He could tell you anything you needed to know about American history.”

Michael was never injured overseas, but he did suffer a broken femur during an airborne exercise in Savannah, Ga., while landing hard with a .50-caliber machine gun. Though the Rangers’ tough training regimen apparently never bothered the 6-footer.

“He was fit as a fiddle,” his father said. “I swear to God, I thought he had super human powers.”

At the family’s house in Ramsey on Sunday, and on Michael’s Facebook page, friends paid their respects throughout the day.

“He once told my mother that if anything happened to him at least he would be doing what he loved,” Michelle Jankiewicz said.

She said an Army buddy is bringing “Hans,” Michael’s German shepherd, home to Ramsey from Fort Benning, Ga. “He always wanted a German Shepherd … he had a stuffed German Shepherd as a youngster, and finally got a real one he named Hans six months ago,” Michelle said.

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, but will be handled by the Van Emburg-Sneider-Pernice Funeral Home in Ramsey. Michael Jankiewicz will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.

Air Force Maj. Randall “Randy” Voas, 43, of Minneapolis-St. Paul and 45-year-old Senior Master Sgt. James B. Lackey of Green Cove Springs, Fla., were also killed in the crash, according to the Department of Defense. Officials have not identified the fourth victim.

He is survived by his mother, Serena, of Ramsey, his father, Anthony, of East Stroudsburg, Pa., and his sister Michelle.

Army Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz was killed in action on 4/9/10.

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