Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth A. Foss
1st Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOIC
NEW YORK – Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, traveled Nov. 12 to New York City to attend a ceremony at the Polish Embassy where the Polish Ministry of National Defense posthumously awarded Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis the Polish Army Gold Medal.
During a complex and coordinated attack on Forward Operating Base Ghazni in eastern Af- ghanistan on Aug. 28, Ollis had fought the enemy, who bombarded the perimeter of the FOB with a 3,600-pound improvised explosive device and entered with gunfire, suicide vests and gren-ades.
He shielded 2nd Lt. Karol Cierpica from one of the suicide bombers, heroically saving the Polish soldier’s life while giving the ultimate sacrifice of his own life in the process.
Ollis isn’t just a hero to America, but he is also considered a hero to the people of Poland. The Army Gold Medal is one of Poland’s highest honors.
Established in 1999, the Polish Army Medal is awarded to foreign military personnel and civilians. It is presented at three different levels: gold, silver and bronze.
“Poland and the United States have a long-standing relationship of friendship, cooperation and strategic alliance; it is this commitment that drove Sgt. Ollis and Lt. Cierpica to serve Afghanistan,” said Polish Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf.
Ollis’ parents have been very active in keeping their son’s memory alive. They have shared home videos and personal testimonies giving insight to their son’s life and demeanor.
Many people did not know about Ollis before that fateful day on FOB Ghazni, but his Family has allowed others to respect not only his acts of valor, but his attitude and selflessness in his daily life.
“Our nations have a united conviction that freedom is a value to be earned and sustained,” Schnepf said, “even if it comes at the greatest sacrifice.
“The Polish and American Soldiers who have served shoulder to shoulder proved the old and famous saying ‘for your freedom, and ours.’”
This very conviction is what can drive Soldiers to go above and beyond in response to the call of duty, actions that can define themselves as true humanitarians to the nation and the world.
“What he really represents to the world is humanity, for there is no greater gift than to give your life for someone else,” said Congressman Michael Grimm, who represents the 11th District of New York. “This is profoundly the perfect example of who we are and what we stand for in the United States.”
Cierpica said that in fighting alongside Ollis, he became his brother and considered him as such.