Michael H. Ollis
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Michael H. Ollis

When he enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17, he didn’t know he’d one day make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of the greatest military values: friendship and the fraternity of arms, and become a hero for two nations, Poland and America.

Ollis was born in New Drop on Staten Island, New York, in 1988.

The son of Linda and Robert Ollis, he had two sisters and his whole life ahead of him.

Army Staff Sergeant Michael H. Ollis was no ordinary man. Despite his young age, he was an experienced, battle-hardened warrior, in the full sense of the word. He served in the 1st Armored Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 10th Mountain Division. He received ranger and parachute training. Ollis served his country with pride, and experienced the brutality of war first-hand. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he witnessed the destruction war inflicts on both sides of the conflict.

As a soldier, Michael had often faced serious threats in battle, but nothing could have prepared him for what happened August 28, 2013, in Afghanistan.

On that day, Michael displayed the kind of valor that would earn him a permanent place in the hearts of Polish and American soldiers stationed at the forward operating base in Ghazni.

What had seemed to be just a routine day at the base was suddenly shattered by a deafening explosion. A truck packed with explosives had struck the perimeter wall. Polish officer Lt. Karol Cierpica was wounded in the blast, and lay in the sand with no cover. Meanwhile, armed Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests began to stream through the breach. Michael acted without hesitating.

Braving the hailstorm of bullets and shrapnel, Michael Ollis shielded Lt. Cierpica with his own body. He fought for both of them until the very end.

For his valor, Michael was posthumously awarded the Gold Medal of the Polish Army and Star of Afghanistan by Poland, and the Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart, and the Silver Star by the United States.

In a congratulatory letter to the president of the United States on Independence Day in 2017, Polish President Andrzej Duda wrote: “The additional, undoubted, strengthening element in our close relationship is the fraternity of arms among our soldiers, forged in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots of the modern world. Especially the action of 24-year-old Staff Sergeant Michael H. Ollis, who during the Taliban attack on the base in Ghazni, Afghanistan, in August 2013, gave his life shielding with his own body a Polish Lieutenant, Karol Cierpica, was firmly imprinted in the collective memory of the Polish people. For saving the life of a Polish officer, he was posthumously decorated by the Polish authorities with the Star of Afghanistan, and the Gold Medal of the Polish Army.”

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