So I want you to know more about Matthew Blaskowski from Part 1 above. There’s a lot that many people know about Sergeant Ski and there’s a bit that most don’t. From Leta at Tanker Brothers:
...Matt was known for being a mentor, for his leadership, loyalty, commitment and humor by all those who served with him and knew him in civilian life. He was a 1998 graduate of Cheboygan, Michigan High School where he played football and basketball and was a member of the track team. Matt loved outdoor sports including hunting and fishing. His family as well as his military “family” all concur that Matt had the innate ability to make those around him laugh and feel comfortable. He was always available to give a helping hand and to listen.
Matt enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on 17 November, 1998. His military career initially took him to Ft. Drum, NY where he was assigned to the 10th Mtn Division as a rifleman and a scout with the 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry then later with the 4th Battalion 31st Infantry. In 2002 Matt completed Airborne School and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion 503rd Infantry (Airborne) where he held a myriad of leadership positions. He had earned a college degree in Wildlife Forestry Management and aspired to teach at the United States Military Academy at West Point...
Matt, like many of us, found a second home in the Airborne. So, here’s a few candid photos of Blaskowski that you might not have seen before.
This picture was taken in 2004 when Matthew went on his last hunting trip with his Dad, Uncles and friends to Quebec. While on this hunt-of-a-lifetime at a fly in camp, Matthew shot two beautiful Caribou and one massive black bear. The story behind the black bear is a great one...
While out one day on their trip, using binos, the hunters could see this big black bear a mile. Matthew was closer to the bear than the others. His Uncles asked why he wasn't going after it. He stated that it was too far away. Well the guys on the radio started ribbing him and saying that they thought that he was a hard ass Army guy.
"Was that too far for you to go????"
Well, Matthew being the competitive spirit that he was, took off running across the tundra's hills to track this bear. He couldn't see the bear, but his Dad and Uncles could, so they would radio him and guide him closer to the bear. At one point, the hunters all knew that Matthew was getting close so Matthew shut off the radio and followed the last instructions. Matthew crept up behind this huge boulder and crouched down. He was sure that the black bear was within about 25 yards or so. As he peered over the boulder, the big black bear was just on the other side. And it looked to be about 450 pounds.
According to Matthew’s dad and uncles, Sergeant Ski dropped quickly and slowly brought his 30-06 up, stood out and shot the bear once. The bear reared up in surprise, and immediately fell dead.
Matthew’s trophy hangs in his parents’ family room today.
So, you know that Matthew was wounded from Part 1. After three months, SSG Blaskowski returned to duty in Afghanistan. Here’s a photo of him and his team in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan in 2005:
After their tour in 2005 the 2/503rd returned to Vicenza, Italy, and Matthew married Daniela, a local Italian girl. Here’s a photo of the wedding party on June 3rd, 2006:
So, in 2007, Matthew’s battalion (2/503rd PIR) went back to Afghanistan. Now a Platoon Sergeant (1st Platoon) in Battle Company, SSG Blaskowski learned that he was to be promoted to Sergeant First Class. If you’ve been a reader here, you know about Battle Company.
They were sent to the Korengal Valley on the border with Pakistan. The valley was contested every day and Sergeant Ski’s home was Firebase Vegas.
On Sunday night, September 23rd, 2007, Cheryl and Terry Blaskowski, in their home in Cheboygan, Michigan, received a visit from military officials to tell them that Matthew - Sergeant Ski – had been killed by a sniper’s bullet when the Firebase had been under attack. He was 27 years old.
At the ceremony on September 28th, Matthew's platoon leader, 1LT Bradley Winn said, "He was the mentor and platoon sergeant that I had always dreamed of - leading from the front and being an everyday hero that all of the Soldiers, including myself, looked up to. Sergeant Ski was the epitome of a professional Soldier that will forever set the bar for Battle Company, Chosen Company and the whole Rock family."
On October 4th, Sergeant First Class Matthew Blaskowski was laid to rest in Michigan. The blog, Serving the Queens, has pictures of the support the Blaskowski’s received from their neighbors.
Matthew Blaskowski always gave more than he got. We must do the same. So, I need your help. That's Part 3 in the next post.