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Polish officials to present awards to 'heroic' soldier's parents

Sep. 25, 2013 - 03:24PM   |  
Army Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis
Army Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis (Army)
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A grateful Polish official says he hopes to formally present two medals to the family of a Fort Drum, N.Y., soldier who died shielding a Polish officer from a suicide bomber last month in Afghanistan.

The Polish military had posthumously awarded its Gold Medal to Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis and a service medal normally given only to Polish troops.

“This is a true example U.S.-Polish friendship at a tactical level,” Brig. Gen. Jaroslaw Strozyk, Poland’s defense attache in Washington, D.C., told Army Times.

“His behavior was really heroic and a sign of trust between our soldiers,” he said.

Ollis, 24, died in a complex attack at Forward Operating Base Ghazni, in eastern Afghanistan on Aug, 28. Enemy forces attacked the base with a massive bomb that breached a wall and enabled 10suicide bombers to enter.

Special Forces soldiers had killed nearly all of the bombers when Ollis and a Polish officer encountered one, according to an Army narrative. Ollis reportedly stepped between the officer and the bomber and was credited by the Polish officer with saving his life.

Ollis has been nominated for the Silver Star, the U.S. military’s third highest award for valor.

Polish officials hope to hold a ceremony to posthumously honor Ollis and present his parents with the Polish military’s Gold Medal, its top honor for a foreign soldier, Strozyk said. The time and location were as yet undetermined.

Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak personally signed the documents that accompany the Gold Medal.

Poland’s president also has posthumously granted Ollis a rare honor for an American, the nation’s Afghanistan service medal. Strozyk said it recognizes the cooperation between U.S. and Polish forces in Afghanistan.

Poland, a NATO country, contributes about 1,800 troops to the multinational force in Afghanistan. The Polish forces at FOB Ghazni were with Task Force-White Eagle and primarily from the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade, based at Tomaszow Mazowiecki.

Ollis’ parents, Robert and Linda Ollis, of Staten Island, N.Y., were vacationing in London when they were notified of their son’s death.

Though they later learned the extent of their son’s heroics, an officer told them initially that “Michael had saved a lot of lives,” his father told the Staten Island Advance.

“Without getting into detail because of the investigation, he kept insisting that we should be very proud of our son. And we are,” he said.

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