US soldier’s selfless act honored in renaming of Poland base dining facility
Stars and Stripes October 31, 2023
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis’ heroics when he sacrificed his life to save a Polish soldier during an attack in Afghanistan in 2013 have become part of military lore in Poland.
The dining facility at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, where U.S. and Polish troops eat together, bears his name.
“The memorial reminds us of Michael’s courage and bravery throughout his service,” Brig. Gen. Eric Riley, deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, said Friday during a ceremony at Camp Kosciuszko.
At the ceremony, the dining facility was christened the Staff Sgt. Michael Harold Ollis Warrior Grill.
Ollis, who served with the 10th Mountain Division during Operation Enduring Freedom, was killed Aug. 28, 2013, when his outpost in Ghazni came under attack by insurgents. During the battle, he shielded Polish Lt. Karol Cierpika from a suicide bomber.
Ollis was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and the Polish Army Gold Medal for valor. In 2019, his award was upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest U.S. military honor.
“Michael is a revered hero in the Polish community,” the Army said in a statement. “He not only saved Cierpika but several lives during the attack.”
In the years since his death, Ollis’ family has forged a bond with Cierpika, who was on hand at the ceremony along with Ollis’ parents and sister, Kelly Manzolillo.
“He was fulfilling his dreams; he always wanted to be a soldier,” Manzolillo said. “Michael was brave and kind. His friends, teachers and everyone only have kind words to say.”
Polish army Lt. Col. Adam Dabrowski, commander of the 14th Garrison Support Unit in Poznan, said the renamed dining facility will serve as “a place where the Polish and Americans can dine together and strengthen as allies.”
“Ollis will always be in our hearts and minds,” Dabrowski said.
Camp Kosciuszko serves as the headquarters for the U.S. Army’s V Corps and was activated in March as the service’s first permanent garrison in Poland.