Army Service Cross Recipient Died Shielding Polish Officer from Blast

  • Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for blocking a suicide bomber's blast with his own body. Photo Courtesy of Fort Drum Public Affairs
    Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for blocking a suicide bomber's blast with his own body. Photo Courtesy of Fort Drum Public Affairs
  • Robert Ollis, father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, and Kimberly Loschiavo, the soldier's sister, posthumously receive the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. James C. McConville, vice shief of staff of the Army, on June 8, 2019, at the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis VFW Post on Staten Island, New York. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)
    Robert Ollis, father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, and Kimberly Loschiavo, the soldier's sister, posthumously receive the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. James C. McConville, vice shief of staff of the Army, on June 8, 2019, at the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis VFW Post on Staten Island, New York. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)

The U.S. Army recently awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross to Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis for sacrificing his life to save a Polish Army officer in Afghanistan in 2013. Ollis blocked a suicide bomber's blast with his own body, according to his award citation.

Ollis was serving in the 10th Mountain Division's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, on Aug. 28, 2013, when enemy forces attacked Forward Operating Base (FOB) Ghazni with "vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, suicide vests, indirect fire, and small-arms fire," according to the medal citation provided by the Army.

After ordering his fellow soldiers to take shelter in a bunker, Ollis moved toward the enemy force, which had penetrated the perimeter of FOB Ghazni, and linked up with Polish Army Lt. Karol Cierpica, according to the citation and an Army news release.

Neither was wearing body armor.

"Together, they moved toward the point of attack without their personal protection equipment and armed only with their rifles," the citation states.

The two then joined friendly forces and began a coordinated effort to repulse the enemy from the airfield and adjacent buildings, according to the citation.

"While under continuous small-arms indirect and rocket-propelled grenade fires, Staff Sergeant Ollis and his comrades moved from position to position, engaging the enemy with accurate and effective fire," it adds.

During the fight, an insurgent came around a corner and began shooting at Ollis and Cierpica.

"With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Ollis positioned himself between the insurgent and [Cierpica], who had been wounded in both legs and was unable to walk," the citation states. "Ollis fired on the insurgent and incapacitated him, but as he approached the insurgent, the insurgent's suicide vest detonated, mortally wounding him."

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, who has been confirmed to be the service's next chief of staff, presented the second highest award for valor to Ollis' family members during the June 8 ceremony on Staten Island, according to the Army release.

"Every generation has its heroes," McConville said during his remarks. "Michael Ollis is one of ours."

The ceremony, which was held outside the Veterans of Foreign War post named in Ollis' honor, was packed with veterans, friends and family members, according to the release.

"I was privileged to serve with Michael and Karol when I was the 101st Airborne Division commanding general in Regional Command East while they were deployed," McConville said in the release. "Their actions that day in August against a very determined enemy saved many, many lives."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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