Army Cpl. Michael D. Jankiewicz
Died April 09, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom
23, of Ramsey, N.J.; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died April 9 in Zabul, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when the CV-22 Osprey he was flying in crashed.
(The following was taken from www.northjersey.com of Apr. 15, 2010) RAMSEY — Faint sniffles and the soft clap of combat boots against the black top stood out in the stark silence just after noon Thursday when the black hearse carrying Cpl. Michael Jankiewicz inched down East Main Street.
Nine of his Army Ranger brothers led the way — passing by Jankiewicz’s former high school, beneath a 30-foot by 50-foot American flag the Ramsey Fire Department hung above Main Street and over the railroad tracks that bisect this small town. The soldiers marched onto North Central Avenue, past borough hall, and rounded the corner onto Darlington Avenue where Jankiewicz, with his family trailing in a limousine, was delivered to the Van Emburgh-Sneider-Pernice Funeral Home.
Six days ago, the young man who dreamed from the age of 3 of serving his country, died when the U.S. Air Force Osprey he was flying in crashed. Jankiewicz had just begun his second tour of duty in Afghanistan; he had also served twice in Iraq.
“Michael was a character,” said his cousin Scott Heuer. The Army “was an adventure to him … he wanted to be out there doing what he did.”
At Ramsey High, Michael dressed in fatigues and took pride in his knowledge of history, friends said. They described him as being kind to everyone, the glue that held them together and a person they could go to for advice.
“This would be the way he would probably want to die,” said Megan Fitzpatrick, who
took Thursday off from student teaching to welcome her former schoolmate home. “It
just happened too soon.”
In the middle of the workday, in the middle of the week, hundreds of people dropped what they were doing to line the procession route. Many had never met the 23-year-old. A few could find connections through siblings or their own children – as is often the case in small towns. But young and old alike, they all shared the same reverence.
“What he stood for and what he did for this country is the ultimate sacrifice,” said Chris Rotella, who took a break from working from his Ramsey home to watch the 15-minute “I’m just proud to be an American,” said Maura Boyd, of her reason for bringing her 5-year-old daughter Shelby. “It’s nice to see the community come together.”
Veterans and family members of others who are serving in the military proudly displayed their allegiance, wearing jackets, t-shirts and hats representing their branch of the military. Nearly everyone along the route held tight to an American flag.
“It’s extremely important for the family to know that people loved their son and support what he was doing,” said Tom Egan, a Vietnam Veteran from VFW Post 850 in Glen Rock. “When the family passes and sees this outpouring of support … it’s the beginning of the closure process.”
To the Ramsey High School students who lined the sidewalk three and four people deep, it brought world history to their doorstep.
“This is a close knit town,” said Principal Richard Lio. “A lot of these kids don’t even know him – but at the same time, they know him.”
“I know he walked the same halls. Him and I had the same history teacher,” said Maddie Messina, a senior at Ramsey High. “And he went to Iraq.”
“This gives them a real good idea of what it’s like to serve your country,” said Matt Certo, assistant principal.
In front of borough hall, a 10-foot by 15-foot American Flag flapped off the side of a Westwood fire truck. In January, that town held its own procession for Sgt. Christopher Hrbek, who was also killed in Afghanistan.
“The Ramsey Fire Department asked if we would join in,” said Jaymee Hodges, Hrbek’s step-father. “They came down and were so supportive to us … so it’s our honor to be here.”
When the procession reached its destination, Jankiewicz’s family huddled in the Van Emburgh-Sneider-Pernice parking lot as the white flag-draped coffin was unloaded by Army Rangers. They wept and hugged as their brother, son, grandson, nephew and cousin was taken inside.
“My family couldn’t be more proud of Michael,” said Heuer, his cousin. “It was just a beautiful display of love and respect. And we couldn’t ask for more.”