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Spc. Michael Potocki

Spc. Michael Potocki ()

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Spc. Michael Potocki was a guy who would do anything for you — for his fellow soldiers and for his friends.

“He’d give you the shirt off his back,” said Pfc. Matthew Stern, his friend.

Potocki, 21, with the Baumholder-based 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, was shot June 26 during a firefight in Hit, northwest of Baghdad. He died later at a U.S. Army medical facility at al-Asad Air Base.

The Baltimore native was the first 1-6 soldier killed in this deployment, the unit’s second Iraq rotation since 2003.

Stern’s remembrances and news stories paint a portrait of an exceptional soldier and human being.

A Marine Corps News story about his Iraq memorial quoted Potocki’s team leader, Cpl. William McCoy, as calling Potocki “a helluva person,” a new breed of infantryman he’d like to show other countries as an example of an American.

Potocki made a big impression on him, Stern said.

“He was the first person I met when I first arrived in Baumholder,” the Houston native wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “He was there to show me around post, and there to make Germany feel as much like home as possible.”

Potocki was also there when he needed him most, Stern said in an interview. After Stern collapsed with a seizure last month in Iraq, “I don’t really remember anything except him. Just his hand on my shoulder. Just his voice reassuring me everything was going to be OK.

“He never left my side as they were loading me on the [helicopter] to be evacuated,” Stern said. “Loyalty is something that cannot be taught. Specialist Potocki was loyal.”

Potocki was on his second Iraq deployment, having spent five months in 2004 during the 1st Armored Division’s first rotation. He joined the Army in March of 2003, just before graduating from Patterson Senior High School that June.

He was awarded posthumously the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He had already been awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and other medals and citations. He is survived by his mother, Debra Potocki, his father, Joseph Munn, and his brother, Kevin Potocki.

Potocki loved his country and loved being a soldier in the U.S. Army, Stern wrote.

“He once said to me that birth and death are the two noblest expressions of bravery.”

Potocki’s memorial was held June 30 in Baumholder. The Department of Defense didn’t announce his death until that day.

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