One of Our Best

I’ve been sending packages for most of this war to young men and women I don’t know who are far from home.  Some I get to know through letters or emails, some I’ve had the honor of meeting personally.  Some I’ve never heard from at all.

It doesn’t matter. Once I’ve sent a package to “that name”, I become attached and very concerned about the person who owns that name. I check in with the DOD and MNFI to see how things are in the area where they are based, if I know.  I watch the list of the Fallen, checking for “that name”.  Fortunately, I have only seen one of my guys on the list.

But it hit me like a ton of bricks. And as I packed up the boxes for my next mailing, I sat down and wept ~ his name wasn’t going to go on one of my packages again.

Well, one of my Tanker Brothers sisters, Leta, has just experienced this with one of her adopted soldiers. Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Blaskowski was a helluva soldier and someone you should know.

Honor the Fallen: SFC Matthew Blaskowski

SFC Matthew Blaskowski

March 5, 1980 – September 23, 2007

KIA in Kunar Province, Afghanistan

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers from Task Force Rock gathered to remember the life and service of Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Blaskowski (Battle Company 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne) at a memorial ceremony conducted Sept. 28 at Camp Blessing in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. SFC Blaskowski died 23 September 2007 from gunshot wounds when his platoon’s FOB was attacked by insurgents in the Korengal Valley near the Pakistan border.

 

Press Release Here

Matt was known as Sergeant Ski by those who served with him. He was a true American Hero – a Soldier’s Soldier. More so he was a husband, son, brother, uncle and friend to many. Matt gave his life doing what he loved and what he believed in. He had a reputation as a born leader.

In 2003 SFC Blaskowski, according to an article in the Stars and Stripes, was the rear detachment Non Commissioned Officer in Charge after the 173rd parachuted in to northern Iraq in 2003. The article continues by stating that Matt was known as the “get it done” guy while in that position.

Stars and Stripes Article Here

This was not Matt’s first deployment to Afghanistan. He was deployed there in 2005 – 2006 with Chosen Company 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne). During that deployment Matt was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. Central Command commander, congratulates Staff Sgt. Matthew Blaskowski, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) on receiving the Silver Star for gallantry in combat during a fire fight May 3, 2005, in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. The ceremony was held Nov. 30, 2005, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jon Arguello

He was shot in the leg while pulling another wounded Soldier to safety in a six hour long firefight. On 3 May 2005 the battalion’s scout element came into contact with enemy forces in the Arghandab River Valley. An air assault was then launched by other elements of the battalion, and at least 37 enemy combatants were reported killed in the engagement. Blaskowski directed two machine-gun teams into position under heavy fire by enemy forces, where they maintained the tenuous position, effectively pinning down dozens of enemy combatants, while under heavy fire, according to his award citation. Blaskowski suffered a leg wound while coming to the aid of one his soldiers. See entire stories here and here.
Matt was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for treatment of his wounds. He then spent time recovering with his family in Michigan before he returned to Afghanistan within three months of his wound to continue the fight against the insurgents with the men of Chosen Company. In this article his grandmother Shirley Blaskowski is quoted “…but once his wounds were healed he packed his bags and headed back to serve his country. “He said nana, it’s my job, and I like doing it.”.

Matt was known for being a mentor, for his leadership, loyalty, commitment and humor by all those who served with him and knew him in civilian life. He was a 1998 graduate of Cheboygan, Michigan High School where he played football and basketball and was a member of the track team. Matt loved outdoor sports including hunting and fishing. His family as well as his military “family” all concur that Matt had the innate ability to make those around him laugh and feel comfortable. He was always available to give a helping hand and to listen.

Matt enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on 17 November, 1998. His military career initially took him to Ft. Drum, NY where he was assigned to the 10th Mtn Division as a rifleman and a scout with the 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry then later with the 4th Battalion 31st Infantry. In 2002 Matt completed Airborne School and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion 503rd Infantry (Airborne) where he held a myriad of leadership positions. He had earned a college degree in Wildlife Forestry Management and aspired to teach at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Late Sunday night 23 September 2007 Matt’s parents, Terry and Cheryl Blaskowski, received the visit that every military parent dreads. Officials came to tell them that their oldest son had fallen victim to an insurgent sniper and had given the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of this nation. In an email to the Stars and Stripes last week Matt’s mother Cheryl said, “All his family called him their hero. He told his Dad: ‘Dad, I am not a hero. Those who have died are heroes.’”

His grandmother was quoted in The Traverse City Record Eagle as saying, “We’re mad and we’re sad and we’re tired.” She continued, “He was very proud of what he was doing, but we didn’t want to lose him. He was very brave and very strong — maybe too brave.” Sadly SFC Matthew Blaskowski is now among the greatest of all American heroes.

Matt will be laid to rest today, 4 October 2007 in his home state of Michigan where Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has ordered all flags throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters be lowered to half staff in remembrance and honor of Matt.

I have never met SFC Matthew Blaskowski but I had the true honor and privilege of supporting Matt and his platoon this year. In an email he wrote to me on 8 August 2007 Matt said, Sorry I have not been able to send you a thank you. I came to a base with internet for a few days and then back out to the firebase I will go. Thank you so much for all of the packages. The soldiers and I appreciate everything greatly. Everything you send is perfect nothing goes to waste. I will try and write once a month and give you an update on our conditions here. We recently got a generator out there so we have power for a few hours everyday. We get mail about twice a month by air. It’s like Christmas every time and most of the packages by far are from you. The name of my platoon’s base is called Firebase XXXXX. We are slowly but surely making it better. I have a lot of pictures of the Soldiers that I will try and send to you next time I get to the internet. Thank you again for all of your packages. Also thank the people that are in contact with you who also send us things. The Soldiers and I appreciate everything you do for us and we try to write a letter at least every time we get mail, but we only get to send out mail when someone carries all the letters out to mail them and that does not happen very often. Thanks again for all of your support.”

I emailed a response to Matt that it was our honor to provide support to him and his men. I told him that we believe it is our job (an easy one) to provide support because they are doing the difficult job by fighting those who would rather see this nation in chaos and ruin. I told him we knew they were making great progress and to keep up the good fight but to stay safe. Then I told him more boxes were on the way and reminded him of how grateful we were for him and his men. That was my last correspondence with Matt. It has been a long time since I have been as sad as I was when I received the email from the HHC at Camp Blessing telling me of Matt’s death. Even though I had never met him I knew from the correspondence I had with members of the 173rd as well as from reading accounts of his service on the internet that he was a special human being.

Our prayers along with our deepest and most sincere condolences go out to Matt’s wife, parents, brother, extended family and friends and to his comrades left behind. There is no way to adequately express our thoughts at this time. If one takes the time to read about SFC Blaskowski on the internet one finds story after story about the man he was. He lived his 27 years as a shining example of what humanity should be. It is apparent that Matt touched the lives of anyone who met and knew him in any capacity. He was the best of the best. He lived a selfless life in many ways – one of which was his choice to serve this nation as a member of the United States Army – to defend our freedom and continue to ensure our safety and security. Matt gave his all for us. This nation owes more to SFC Matthew Blaskowski than we could ever give. May his family know that we grieve with them in this time of sadness and loss and that we are thankful for the man he was. May they find comfort in remembering all that Matt was, all that he did and all that he gave throughout his life.

Rest in peace Matt. Our prayers are with you. I know the gates of heaven were standing wide open when you passed through and the angels were there to meet you.

Post written by Leta

***********

Matthew’s family knows that Leta has put up a post in honor of him and will be reading it. So please go over to Tanker Brothers and leave a message for them in the comments, if you’d be so kind.

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October 4, 2007. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

12 Comments

  1. Leta replied:

    YM ~ thank you for adding this post in honor and memory of SFC Blaskowski. I hope AS CJ over at “A Soldiers Perspective” and “They Have Names” says – the DO have names. Our fallen are NOT just numbers and statistics.

    And thank you for explaining so well what supporting our Warriors is like. They aren’t just names. They are humans. While we rarely meet any of them and never expect to they become a part of us in some strange and real way as do all of those with whom they share the mail and goodies we send to them.

    Yesterday as I put tape on boxes to send to Matt’s platoon and to another platoon in his company I did just as you – I wept again. I had a stack of customs forms with Matt’s name on them that I had filled out while on a flight a month or so ago. I still don’t know what to do with them.

    To Matt’s family and friends – thank you for allowing us to “share” Matt by supporting him and his men. It was an honor in every sense of the word. I’ll never pretend to know how you must be feeling at this time but I hope that you know how many around this nation are keeping you in their thoughts and prayers.

  2. Donna, Los Osos, CA replied:

    I think this is the reason we all get so fired up over the treason we see, this IS personal. They are not body counts. They are they best of us.

    I too had the same kick in the stomach when my package sent to Sgt.Frank Hernandez was returned. It sat on my table for two weeks before I could open it.

    Even in the pain, I thank God I was honored to touch these rare treasures, even just a little. My heart hurts for Matt’s family and battle brothers.

    On the wings of eagles….

  3. yankeemom2 replied:

    Our soldiers are someone’s son, daughter, grandchild, Mommmy, Daddy, husband, wife, fiance, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, Grandpa, Grandma, once upon a time newspaper boy, pitcher or fullback for the local high school team, teacher at a local school or someone’s neighbor.

    One of the guys that worked on our chimneys was in Somalia. He made it home – so many of his buddies didn’t. You just never know who’s “seen the elephant”.
    (He, of course, received a Soldiers Angels Coin from me and we both had tears in our eyes.)

    My prayers go out to you all, Matthew’s family. Thank you for having such a son.

  4. “He Has Seen The Elephant” « You Betcha I’m a Proud Army Mom replied:

    […] “He Has Seen The Elephant” This phrase came to my mind as I was commenting in the post I did honoring SFC Matthew Blaskowski. […]

  5. Angela (McKervey) Stahl replied:

    My sister,Becky, is married to SFC Matthew Blaskowski’s brother, Stan. We are devastated that he is gone. While we understand that this was God’s will, it doesn’t make it easier to say goodbye. We laid our beloved soldier to rest yesterday. It is estimated that well over 3,000 mourners were in attendance, along with throngs of community members who lined the streets with flags, banners and tears…a community so proud and so sad at the same time. This was the most difficult funeral I have ever been to. I heard that comment from many others, as well. He died for us, but we wish he hadn’t…to be so proud and so heartbroken at the same time is indescribable. Is it possible to miss someone, as much as you loved them? YES.

    Thanks to all of you who care for our soldiers overseas with e-mail, care packages and prayers. We know that your hearts ache with their loss.

    Terry, Cheryl, Stan, Becky, Daniela– we are right there with you. We love you so much. May God give you the strength to go forward. May He give you peace…now that Matt has come home.

    Thank You, SFC Matthew Blaskowski, for your sacrifice. Rest in Peace, sweetheart.

  6. yankeemom2 replied:

    Angela ~ thank you for your visit here. My heart goes out to you and your family. May your memories of such this fine man and family member ease the pain in your hearts. I believe he is forever on special guard duty now lovingly watching over you all.

  7. impeachbush replied:

    Sorry, folks, but this man’s death was not God’s will; it was George W. Bush’s will. What does it mean to see the elephant? Is it the proverbial elephant in the room? Is it the GOP elephant of perpetual war for profit and greed? God bless these brave warriors who have died for we know not what!

  8. impeachbush replied:

    “Why? Six years on from the invasion of Afghanistan”

    As another British soldier is killed in Afghanistan, Patrick Cockburn asks what is the point of the mission

    Published: 06 October 2007

    Six years after a war was launched to overthrow the Taliban, British solders are still being killed in bloody skirmishing in a conflict in which no final victory is possible. Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan by the US, Britain and allies, an operation codenamed Enduring Freedom. But six years on, Britain is once again, as in Iraq, the most junior of partners, spending the lives of its soldiers with little real influence over the war.

    The outcome of the conflict in Afghanistan will be decided in Washington and Islamabad. There is no chance of defeating the Taliban so long as they can retreat, retrain and recoup in the mountain fastnesses of Pakistan.

    Yesterday, we learned of the death of another British soldier. Although his identity has not been released, it is believed that the dead man acted as a mentor to Prince William. Two others were injured when their vehicle was caught by an explosion west of Kandahar, bringing the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 82 since 2001.

    The drip-drip of British losses underlines how little has been achieved in the past six years, and how quickly any gains can be lost. Most of southern Afghanistan was safer in the spring of 2002 than it is now and at no moment during the years that have elapsed is there any evidence from the speeches of successive British ministers that they have much idea what we are doing there and what we hope to achieve.

    This week, the Conservative leader David Cameron told supporters that he would restore Afghanistan to the “number one priority in foreign policy”. The remark highlighted how this conflict has all but slipped from the political agenda.

    Yet, Afghanistan is filled with the bones of British soldiers who died in futile campaigns in the 19th century and beyond. The lesson of these long forgotten wars is that military success on the ground in Afghanistan is always elusive and, even when achieved, seldom turns into lasting political success.

    The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan through Pakistani support and it was when this support was withdrawn in 2001 that the Taliban abandoned Kabul and Kandahar in the days and weeks after 7 October without a fight. But six years later, the Taliban are back.

    The violence shows no sign of ending. Suicide bombings, gun battles, airstrikes and roadside bombs have killed 5,100 people in the first nine months of this year, a 55 per cent increase over the same period in 2006.

    I went to Afghanistan in September 2001 a few days after 9/11 when it became obvious the US was going to retaliate by overthrowing the Taliban because they had been the hosts of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

    It was a very peculiar war that followed, distinguished, above all, by a lack of real fighting. When Pakistani support and Saudi money were withdrawn, the Taliban’s regime unravelled at extraordinary speed. By early 2002, I was able to drive from Kabul to Kandahar without feeling that I was taking my life in my hands.

    But, for all the talk of progress and democracy and the presence of thousands of British, American and other Nato troops on the ground, it is impossible to undertake such journeys across the country safely.

    Yet, back in 2001, from the moment I saw the first American bombs falling on Kabul and the sparks of light from the feeble Taliban anti-aircraft guns, it was obvious the two sides were completely mismatched.

    Taliban fighters who expected to be targeted, simply fled before they were annihilated. The victory came too easily. The Taliban never made a last stand even in their bastions of support in the Pashtun heartlands in south. It was a very Afghan affair in keeping with the traditions of the previous 25 years when sudden betrayals and changes of alliance, not battles, had decided the winner.

    Driving from Kabul towards Kandahar in the footsteps of the Taliban, I visited the fortress city of Ghazni on the roads south where the Taliban had suddenly dematerialised and received a de facto amnesty in return for giving up power without a fight.

    Qari Baba, the ponderous looking governor of Ghazni province, who had been appointed the day before, said: “I don’t see any Taliban here”, which was surprising since the courtyard in front of his office was crowded with tough-looking men in black turbans carrying sub machine-guns.

    “Every one of them was Taliban until 24 hours ago,” whispered a Northern Alliance officer.

    One fact that should have made the presence of British, American and other foreign troops easier in Afghanistan was that the Taliban were deeply hated for their cruelty, mindless religious fanaticism (leading to the banning of chess and kite flying) and the belief that they are puppets of Pakistani military intelligence. And unlike Iraq, the foreign presence in Afghanistan has had majority support, though that is slipping.

    Drawing parallels between Iraq and Afghanistan is misleading because Saddam Hussein had sought to run a highly centralised state. In Afghanistan power had always been fragmented. But Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 were mired in poverty. One reason why both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein went down so quickly is that Afghans, like the Iraqis, hoped for a better life.

    They did not get it. Lack of jobs and services like electricity, clean water, hospitals and food continued or got worse.

    Iraq is potentially a rich country because of its oil wealth. In Afghanistan the only equivalent to oil money is the money from the poppy fields on which impoverished farmers increasingly depend. One of the reasons the Taliban lost the support of Pashtun farmers in 2001 – though this was hardly highlighted by the victors – is that they enforced a ban on poppy growing which was highly effective. If the US adopts a policy of killing the poppy plants by spraying them with chemicals from the air, then they will also be engulfed by the same wave of unpopularity. The opium trade is fuelling lawlessness, warlordism and an unstable state.

    Both Afghanistan and Iraq are notoriously difficult countries to conquer. They have for centuries, been frontier zones where powerful neighbours have fought each other by proxy.

    Victory in Afghanistan six years after the start of the war to overthrow the Taliban is not likely. Even massively expanding troop levels would just mean more targets, and more losses. Armies of occupation, or perceived occupation, always provoke a reaction.

    Ultimately what happens in Afghanistan will be far more determined not by skirmishes in Helmand province, but by developments in Pakistan, the Taliban’s great supporter, which are wholly beyond British control. And the agenda in both the Afghan and Iraqi wars is ultimately determined by US domestic political needs. Successes in faraway wars have to be manufactured or exaggerated. Necessary compromises are ruled out, leaving Iraqis and Afghans alike with the dismal outlook of war without end.

  9. yankeemom2 replied:

    impeachbush ~ to come on a post that is in honor of a Fallen Soldier and spout political blame is rather rude and insensitive.
    I have no problem with you commenting on my posts about politics and the wars, but I ask you to show respect for a fine young man who chose freely to do what he did and for his family.

  10. Leta replied:

    Yankee Mom ~ thanks for responding to impeachbush as you did. It is men (?) like that who continue to be the core of hate in this world. A man, SFC Matthew Blaskowski, made the choice to serve this nation. He gave his life while doing so. His family is grieving at this time yet one such as impeachbush decides now is the time to show total disrespect to Matt’s life and to his family. I’m proud to stand with those who value family over those who are self serving. I am honored to have supported Matt ~ a man who valued family, life and freedom.

  11. impeachbush replied:

    Leta and Yankeemom, I’m with you regarding SFC Matthew Blaskowski more than you realize and mourn his loss as well as all of the others who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. I just want to know the truth about what is going on over there and why it is taking so long to bring these conflicts to a satisfactory conclusion.

    I googled “He Has Seen the Elephant” and found this very poignant letter from a soldier in Iraq written back in 2004.

    “Joe Galloway: What It’s Really Like Over There,” June 23, 2004

    “WASHINGTON – The Internet, which fills our inboxes with spam and scams every day and keeps our delete keys shiny, occasionally delivers a real keeper, such as the words below, which were written by a graduate of West Point, Class of 2003, who’s now at war in Iraq. ……”

    http://www.military.com/NewContent/0,13190,Galloway_062304,00.html

  12. impeachbush replied:

    yankeemom: I didn’t realize you had already posted the excellent Joe Galloway piece. I had never heard the term “He Has Seen the Elephant!” I didn’t mean to be flippant in referring to the GOP elephant. However, the GOP elephant does seem to be “the elephant in the room” these days!

    When I call myself “impeachbush” I am dead serious and very unhappy that the Democrats in the person of Nancy Pelosi have taken impeachment off the table. If Clinton was impeached for lying about sex, how much more should Bush and Cheney be impeached for sending our fine military men and women to their deaths for continuous lies about why we are permanently occupying Iraq and Afghanistan? Sorry, but I am one of those conspiracy nuts who believes that 9/11 was an inside job — the “second pearl harbor” that the neocons called for as the catalyst for their imperial agenda!

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