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Polish military honors soldier who died saving their officer in Ghazni

Sep. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Ollis
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Poland’s Ministry of Defense has posthumously honored Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, the American soldier who died shielding a Polish soldier from a suicide bomber in Afghanistan last month.

Ollis, 24, of Staten Island, N.Y., was awarded the Polish Army Gold Medal, which recognizes service by a foreign soldier or civilian.

After news broke of Ollis’ heroism, Polish Minister of Defense Tomasz Siemoniak said Wednesday through Twitter that Ollis had received the award Sept. 4, which is just days after the attack.

The U.S. Ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull tweeted to Siemoniak in Polish, “USA thanks you for this extraordinary honor — very highly appreciated.”

Ollis has been nominated for a Silver Star, the American military’s third highest decoration for valor, according to an Army source. The nomination was working its way through Ollis’ chain of command in Afghanistan this week.

In the Aug. 28 attack on Forward Operating Base Ghazni, in eastern Afghanistan, Ollis and a Polish soldier were killed. Ten Polish soldiers and dozens of Afghan troops were injured.

When a car bomb exploded near the base and insurgents attacked, Ollis first accounted for his men and then ran towards the site of the blast and sound of gunfire.

In the fighting, Ollis stepped between an unnamed Polish officer and a suicide bomb-laden insurgent, protecting the Polish officer from a fatal blast.

“In emotional interviews with investigators, the Polish officer repeatedly praised Staff Sgt. Ollis and credited him with saving his life,” according to a U.S. Army account obtained by Army Times.

On Sunday at FOB Ghazni, American officials recognized the American, Polish and Afghan troops for their actions in defense of the base.

In Ollis’ hometown, where hundreds came to his funeral last weekend, the New York Post published an editorial Wednesday that celebrated Ollis as, “the pride of NY” for his “gallantry and courage under fire.”

“At this heartbreaking moment for this soldier’s family, we join all New Yorkers in saluting a son of Staten Island whose action reminds us that the free air we breathe exacts a high price from the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform,” the editorial states.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered flags flown at half-staff on all state buildings on Sept. 3.

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