Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Soldier posthumously receives Distinguished Service Cross for sacrificing himself to save a Polish soldier in Afghanistan
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded posthumously to Army Staff Sergeant Michael H. Ollis in a ceremony marked by pomp and circumstance, poignant speeches, applause and even a few tears in Oakwood, New York on Saturday afternoon.
Military brass, politicians, veterans, family members and friends turned out in force for the standing-room-only dedication that was held on the lawn of the VFW Post that bears the Ollis name.
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General James C. McConville bestowed the honor that symbolizes the extraordinary heroism of the infantryman to his parents, Robert and Linda Ollis, in a spiritually charged ceremony under brilliant sunshine.
Ollis, 24, a lifelong resident of New Dorp, sacrificed his own life on Aug. 28, 2013, while shielding Lieutenant Karol Cierpica of Poland, a member of the coalition forces, from a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
McConville described Ollis as a "true American hero" and also asked Cierpica to stand for acknowledgement in the crowd.
"Their actions that day in August against a very determined enemy saved many, many lives," the general said.
"They soundly defeated a threat that would have had strategic-level consequences for the United States, our allies and partners who were fighting against terrorism in Afghanistan."
Lauding the WWII veterans at the event, McConville noted the many recent worldwide ceremonies honoring the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
"Every generation has its heroes and Michael Ollis is one of ours," the general said.
"From my entire heart, I thank you," Robert Ollis said to the general.
"You have no idea what this means to us," the father added. "You have no idea what it is to be the parent."
"I really would love Michael to be standing here," Robert said, and moments later, his son's plaque fell off of a podium.
"That's Michael talking to us," the father remarked.
Robert Ollis, the father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, and Kimberly Loschiavo, the sister of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, posthumously receive the Distinguished Service Cross from General James C. McConville, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, June 8, 2019 (U.S. Army/Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)
The father spoke of his son's dedication to the military.
"Michael had a love affair with the United States Army," his father said. "I think that's what made Michael so good."
After a 30-day leave, Michael would be eager to return to service.
"He couldn't wait to get to the next deployment," the father said, adding, "He had all intentions of staying in (the Army) forever."
Of his son's demise, the father said, "It's painful to relive it. I've been approached many times by people who say, 'How the hell do you do it?'
"I don't know."
But the father added that "through the tears, we have to tell the story of Karol and Michael. Because what Karol and Michael did in about 15 minutes, the United Nations hasn't been able to do in years.
"They just locked arms and followed each other. They didn't worry about what language it was..."
The father described Michael and Karol as "battle buddies" who helped their fellow soldiers "drive out the insurgents."
Lilliana Runnels, 10, of PS 23, Richmond, read a Memorial Day essay that Robert Ollis introduced, saying that her words "brought Linda and I to tears." The commentary told how on every Memorial Day, Lilliana and her family leave an American flag at a vigil site at Burbank and South Railroad avenues near the Ollis home. Lilliana -- whose mother, Lisa, was a childhood friend of Michael Ollis -- is this year's winner of a Memorial Day Essay Contest sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza.
©2019 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is warning that it's "absolutely a given" that ISIS will come back if the U.S. doesn't keep up pressure on the group, just one week after President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from northern Syria.
"It's in a situation of disarray right now. Obviously the Kurds are adapting to the Turkish attacks, and we'll have to see if they're able to maintain the fight against ISIS," Mattis said in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," set to air on Sunday. "It's going to have an impact. The question is how much?"