Army Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, 24, of Staten Island, N.Y., died Aug. 28 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device, small-arms fire and indirect fire. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), Fort Drum, N.Y. (Army)
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The parents of Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis were presented with his posthumous Silver Star at a remembrance ceremony at Fort Drum, N.Y., on Thursday, the Watertown Daily Times reported.
At the ceremony more details were revealed about Ollis’ many brave choices in the wake of a multi-pronged enemy attack on Forward Operating Base Ghazni in late August, and his final choice to sacrifice his own life to save a Polish officer.
“There were multiple choices, multiple outcomes, all equally honorable,” the newspaper quoted Col. Stephen A. Michael, commander of the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, as saying. “He could have easily chosen safety, but he moved toward the sound of the guns and, in so doing, saved lives.”
On Aug. 28, a 3,000-pound car bomb breached the base’s eastern perimeter wall, allowing 10 insurgents in suicide vests to infiltrate the compound.
At the time, Ollis sent his team from the post Morale, Welfare and Recreation building to get ready while he headed toward the blast site with only one magazine in his rifle and wearing no armor, the Watertown Daily Times reported.
Ollis, 24, of the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, found a Polish lieutenant whose leg had reportedly taken shrapnel from the explosion.
After helping him up, Ollis reportedly moved the Polish officer to where other Special Forces personnel had engaged with the attacking insurgents.
With eight of the 10 insurgents killed, the Polish officer whom Ollis was helping was reportedly injured in the other leg by a grenade thrown by the ninth attacker.
Ollis was reportedly giving medical treatment to the Polish officer when the final suicide-vest-wearing attacker approached from a different angle than the other insurgents.
At that point, Ollis reportedly stood up and moved himself between the Polish officer and the attacker, killing the militant. But the enemy’s vest then exploded, killing Ollis.
After the ceremony at Fort Drum, Ollis’ parents, Robert and Linda Ollis, of Staten Island, told the Watertown Daily Times they felt both pride and anguish over their son’s actions that day — and that those actions made more sense over time.
“Because we knew the type of character he was and how seriously he took his job, it’s not surprising,” Ollis’ mother told the newspaper. “I guess we really do know why he did what he did.”
Ollis’ sisters, Kimberly E. Loschiavo and Kelly M. Manzolillo, and other relatives, also reportedly attended.
Ollis had told his parents that the group of soldiers he served with was “like finding another family,” the newspaper quoted them as saying. Several of them spoke highly of him and his leadership abilities.
Ollis’ parents will be presented with his Gold Medal of the Polish Armed Forces during a ceremony planned in November at the Polish consulate in New York City.