Fallen Hero Honored for His Sacrifice Saving his Polish Comrade in Afghanistan

Staff Sergeant Michael Ollis
Statue honoring the fallen soldier.

For many Americans, Memorial Day is a day away from school and work. It's the unofficial start of summer across the United States and means picnics, parades and pool openings. However, for military families, Memorial Day takes on a different meaning especially those who have lost servicemen and women in the line of duty.

Memorial Day began following the American Civil War. Then, it was known as Decoration Day with the graves of soldiers being decorated with flowers and flags. Unlike Veterans Day, which honors the military service of all, Memorial Day is a tribute to the lives of those lost in the line of duty.

On this last Monday in May, a statue will be unveiled at American Legion Post 253. The statue will depict Staff Sergeant Michael Ollis. Ollis is the brother of Spotswood resident Kim Ollis-Loschiavo. Her beloved brother was killed on August 28, 2013 in Afghanistan, just two months before he was due home. He was 24 years old.

Sign Up for E-News

Ollis' operating base was attacked by insurgent forces. The soldier stepped in front of a wounded Polish officer to shield him from an insurgent outfitted in a suicide vest. The Staff Sergeant, who always wanted to be a soldier like his dad and grandfathers, did not survive. Ollis was awarded the Polish Gold Star Medal of Honor. It's the highest military award the Polish government bestows. The Staten Island native was also awarded the Afghani Star. Posthumously, the United States government honored Ollis' sacrifice and service with the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Silver Star and the Audie Murphy Medallion.

Spotswood Mayor Ed Seely and Councilwoman Marge Drozd were instrumental in helping Ollis-Loschiavo bring the statue of her brother to American Legion Post 253. The statue was designed by Staten Island artist, Gregory Perillo and sculpted by Toms River's Brian Hanlon.

"My family was raised to enjoy all of the American traditions every American enjoys despite the fact that every male role model on both sides of my family has served in the military since the Civil War," Ollis-Loschiavo said in a recent interview. "Memorial Day growing up has always been a celebration of summer; soccer tournaments and spending time with family and friends. When my brother enlisted, we continued our festivities and also took part in Memorial Day parades and honoring Military officers during Fleet Week. My father, who served in the Vietnam War, is quite active with the VFW and American Legion on Staten Island. I have also participated in runs to honor and remember our Service members and their ultimate sacrifice. Since my brothers passing, we have, as as family, worked to tell his story and teach other Americans about Gold Star Families. These actions hopefully will build awareness to educate Americans about the strength and fragility of democracy and the importance to protect it at all costs."

Gold Star Families are relatives of armed forces members that have died in the line of duty. While the term became widespread following the Iraqi War, it actually dates all the way back to World War I. The United States Army refers to grieving family members as "Gold Star Survivors." During the recent presidential election, former President Barrack Obama was quoted as saying that "No one has given more for our freedom and our security than our Gold Star families."

Ollis enlisted in the Army at the tender age of 17 upon his graduation from Petrides High School in Staten Island. However, Spotswood was a second home to the soldier as he returned to the borough to spend time with his sister and her family.

"Being able to share Michael's story and his statute has been an overwhelming experience," Ollis-Loschiavo continued. "I am so grateful to our town for welcoming my family and treating us like we have grown up here all of our lives. My family is truly blessed to be accepted into such a patriotic, public serving community that values serving others before themselves. My brother used to visit our town often since the age of 11, and continued to 'come home' to Spotswood on every leave he had. I am blessed to have such fond memories sharing my hometown with him. Michael was a familiar face at the Cambridge Inn and Ryan's Pub socializing with other service members who grew up in the area."

Ollis' ultimate sacrifice received both national and international attention at the time of his death. The family set up the SSG Michael Ollis Freedom Foundation in his memory and to support veterans, their families and veteran-related causes. They will hold their first 5K run and festival on June 10 in New Dorp, New York.

"I am truly grateful to Mayor Ed Seely for allowing us to display Michael's statute and share his heroic story", Ollis-Loschiavo said. "I am also grateful to Marge Drozd and Travis and Grace Fryowicz for supporting the idea to get Michael's story told in town."

Ollis' statue will be unveiled in a special ceremony on Monday, May 29 at 2 p.m. at the American Legion Post 253 on 50 DeVoe Avenue in Spotswood just as Spotswood's annual Memorial Day Parade kicks off at Schweitzer Mauduet on Main Street.

"I hope every American realizes freedom is a choice that should not be taken for granted," Ollis-Loschiavo said. "If it was not for our military and their families, who else would step up to defend our freedoms?"

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

March 21, 2018

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

Thumbs Up: Somerville Votes Yes on Tax Rate, Parking, Public Safety

March 21, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ - The Borough Council introduced the 2018 municipal budget at Monday night’s meeting which  reflects a 1.88 percent increase over the 2017 budget, and translates to a $45.88 annual increase in local property taxes.

The council also gave final approval to a bond ordinance that appropriates $1.5 million to purchase property for construction of an emergency services ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, March 21, 8:00 PM

Kidztopia, Matawan

Business Women Networking Event

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Sat, March 24

Black Diamond Billiard's, Union

Ladies 9-Ball Pro-Am by the Garden State Pool Tour

Middlesex County Young Republicans Host "Road to Victory" Event at the Green Turtle

March 21, 2018

NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ -  Middlesex County Young Republican Chairman John Steiner would like to announce the Middlesex County Young Republicans "Road to Victory" Reception, which will take place on March 22 at the Green Turtle in North Brunswick from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM.

This event will serve as the official launch for the 2018 campaign season for the Middlesex ...

TAPintoTravel’s Local Player Josh Pauls and Team USA Top Canada for Paralympic Sled Hockey Gold Medal in Sudden Death OT, 2-1

March 21, 2018

PYEYONG CHANG, SOUTH KOREA - Declan Farmer scored the equalizer with just 37.8 seconds to play in the third period and tallied his second goal of the game 3:30 into overtime to lead the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team over Canada, 2-1,  and win an unprecedented third consecutive gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games. 

Josh ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

Ian Hockley Visits New Jersey to Introduce Program to Empower Youth

This week I am taking a departure from book reviewing to share an important program that has been introduced to New Jersey this week by Mr. Ian Hockley, founder of the Dylan's Wings of Change Foundation. On December 14, 2012, Hockley's five year old son, an autistic child named Dylan, was gunned down in his classroom in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Dylan, a shy and adorable ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...