Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Army 1st Lt. Ivan D. Lechowich

Remember Our Heroes

Army 1st Lt. Ivan D. Lechowich, 27, of Valrico, Fla.

Lt. Lechowich was assigned to 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; died Sept. 28, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device.

Lt Lechowich graduated from King High School in 2002 where he played baritone saxophone in the band. He attended the University of Florida where he majored in history. He thought about becoming a lawyer.

Lt Lechowich enlisted in the Army in July of 2009. He entered officer candidate school and was commissioned at Fort Benning, Ga., in January 2010. After completing Engineer Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Leonard Wood, he was assigned to 554th Engineer Battalion Sapper Leader Course as the company executive officer. In December 2010, he was assigned to the 5th Engineer Battalion. He deployed to Afghanistan in April of 2011.

Lt Lechowich was killed one week after he witnessed his daughter's birth on Skype. If Natalie Marie had come into the world on her due date, her father would have never seen her face.

"It's a beautiful thing, it's a sad thing," said the Rev. Bill Swengros of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Valrico, where the couple was married last November.
He had been scheduled to soon christen their daughter.

"He had a great sense of humor and was very mature for his age," said Swengros. "He was smart and funny, a family man and a patriot. This is just very, very sad, an unbelievable tragedy."

"He described himself to me as being a class clown," Swengros said. "I just saw it more as an easy-going personality, not uptight. I saw him as a very gentle, very intelligent person. Somebody who really loved serving his country. He had his head on straight."

Younger sister, Erika said their father, Richard, is a retired lieutenant colonel and that the family wasn't surprised when Ivan decided to join the Army two years ago.

"He was all about it," Erika said. "He really enjoyed what he did. He was excited about the opportunity to be deployed."

Wife, Jennifer, met Ivan while working at Papa John's when he took a job there after college. She remembers a charming co-worker who finally talked her into having a drink with him. She said she loved him ever since.

"He's, like, invincible," said Jen. "You can't get Ivan down. He was what you want to be. He's just unstoppable. He could do anything he wanted to do."

After her husband was deployed, a pregnant Jen moved back to Valrico to stay with his parents. She said she and Ivan had made plans. One more baby, maybe two. See where the Army would take them. Meet new people. Live in places she had only read about. Then come home to Florida. "We loved the life," she said.

Jen said the last time she and her father-in-law got on the computer with Ivan, he didn't have much time to talk. He was packing up. He had to go out on a mission. They hung up, but she knew he would call when he got back.

Lt Lechowich's awards and decorations include:
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
NATO Medal
Combat Action Badge
Sapper Tab (engineer equivalent to the Ranger Tab)

Lt Lechowich is survived by his parents, Richard and Gina; wife, Jennifer and their newborn daughter, Natalie Marie; and sister, Erika.

Army 1st Lt. Ivan D. Lechowich was killed in action on 9/28/11.

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