173rd Airborne remembers fallen comrades
October 11, 2007
VICENZA, Italy — Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Dean Blaskowski and Spc. Matthew Donald Taylor were born six years apart in different states.
But the two soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, who died less than three days apart in Afghanistan, were both remembered in a memorial ceremony Wednesday at Caserma Ederle.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Stevan Horning said the two shared more than their first names. They were both from small communities, “the cradles of heroes.”
Both soldiers’ names have been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal — although Blaskowski already had received one of the military’s highest honors.
Blaskowski, 27, grew up in Sheboygan, Mich., on the shores of Lake Huron. He was serving his second tour in Afghanistan.
In May 2005, elements of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment were engaged in a six-hour battle. Blaskowski, though wounded in the leg, continued to lead his squad through the fight and was awarded the Silver Star.
He deployed to Afghanistan again in May as platoon sergeant for Company B’s 1st Platoon.
“Already, Sergeant ‘Ski was a genuine hero,” said Lt. Col. Todd Johnston, the 173rd rear detachment commander. “He saw no reason to rest on his merits.”
Blaskowski died Sept. 23 in Asadabad of wounds suffered from small-arms fire.
Blaskowski, one of the 40 original members of Company B when “The Rock” stood up in Vicenza in 2002, married an Italian national in 2006. His wife, Daniela, and three rows of her relatives and friends attended the service. He also is survived by his parents, Terry and Cheryl Blaskowski; a brother, Stan; and a grandmother, Shirley Blaskowski.
First Sgt. Richard Howell said Blaskowski always managed to get the task done without complaining. And he had a way of encouraging others to do so as well.
“Sometimes, it would be the simple phrase ‘Dude, you’ve just got to do it,’” Howell said.
Taylor grew up in Cameron Park, Calif. His father, Richard, a military veteran, died in a car crash in 2003 and Taylor decided to join the military to honor his father’s memory. He joined the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment after completing basic training and airborne school. A member of 1st Platoon, Company D, he served as a machine gunner.
Taylor was severely injured on July 23 when a roadside bomb destroyed his Humvee and killed four other soldiers. He underwent treatment for two months at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas before dying on Sept. 26.
Johnston said Taylor showed “tremendous courage in the face of adversity” both while on the battlefield and fighting to survive during his hospital stay.
Pfc. Russell Chappell remembered his friend as “an honest man trying to make a difference for those around him.”
Taylor is survived by his mother, Patty, and sister, Heather.
Blaskowski and Taylor are the 12th and 13th soldiers based in Vicenza to die since the brigade deployed to Afghanistan in May. Three brigade members based in Schweinfurt, Germany, also have died in Afghanistan.