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Mideast edition, Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Two years ago, paratrooper Matthew Blaskowski was wounded in Afghanistan. He recovered.

On Sunday, in a separate incident, the war claimed his life.

On the same day the 27-year-old Michigan native was promoted to sergeant first class, he died in Asadabad, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents using small-arms fire attacked his unit, according to a Pentagon statement.

Blaskowski was a platoon sergeant with the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Vicenza, Italy.

Blaskowski, Cheryl and Terry’s Blaskowski’s first son, was kind-spirited, even as a child, his mother said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday.

“He always looked out for the underdogs, always stood by them, befriending them and made them feel special and important,” she wrote.

His hobbies and interests included hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, snowmobiling, NASCAR and family.

“He had a need for speed, so it isn’t surprising he wanted to jump out of airplanes,” Cheryl Blaskowski said. “It was like a natural thing for him.”

If you wanted something done, Blaskowski was the soldier to turn to, said a fellow soldier, 1st Sgt. Richard Howell. Howell is the Rear Detachment-South noncommissioned officer in charge for the 173 Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Vicenza.

Back in 2003, Blaskowski served as the rear detachment NCOIC after the 173rd parachuted into northern Iraq.

“He went out of his way a lot to help out family members in the rear,” Howell said Tuesday. “You could count on him for anything. He was the ‘get-it-done’ guy. If you absolutely gotta get it done, he was the guy to have handle things.”

Blaskowski was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions and an injury received in May 2005 in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan, after he and his squad endured enemy fire for six hours. He was shot in the leg while trying to rescue a wounded soldier but continued fighting, according to an Army citation. Within three months, he was back with his men serving in Afghanistan.

A memorial service in Vicenza tentatively is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Oct. 3 at the base community chapel.

In addition to his parents, who live in Cheboygan, Mich., Blaskowski is survived by his wife, Daniela, an Italian he married a year ago in June; and his brother, Stan.

Her son loved his family, especially his nephew, Keegan, and niece, Haley, his mother said.

“All his family called him their hero. He told his Dad: ‘Dad, I am not a hero. Those who have died are heroes,’” she wrote.

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