A community of grateful Clermont County citizens was given an opportunity to show their respect to Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Mark “Tony” Wojciechowski last week.
SSgt. Wojciechowski, 25, died on Thursday, April 30, while supporting combat operations in Anbar province, in Iraq. He was part of a Marine Corps bomb squad and died as a result of a bomb blast.
His body was flown from Iraq to Germany and he returned to the United States at Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware. A Marine Corps carry team performed a “dignified transfer” of his body and his casket was accompanied by a military escort to Lunken Airport, in Cincinnati, Thursday, May 7.
Clermont County government offices across the county flew flags at half-mast in his honor and residents lined the processional route waving flags. Yellow ribbons dotted the streets and area business owners expressed their gratitude with signs thanking him for his ultimate sacrifice and offering words of comfort to his family.
"Clermont County will always remember his life, his service and his sacrifice," said Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud.
A visitation was held Friday, May 8, at Mt. Carmel Christian Church with hundreds of residents paying their respects. A Marine Corps honor guard stood next to his casket during the visitation. A funeral service was held on Saturday, May 9 with senior pastor John Bacon officiating. He was laid to rest at Mt. Moriah Cemetery in a private ceremony.
Wojciechowski was assigned to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif. He enlisted in July 2001 and served in both the infantry and security forces. He received his basic training at Paris Island, S.C. and received orders to Naval Station Bremerton, in Washington. He was then ordered to Camp Lejeune, N.C. and re-enlisted after serving three years. When he re-enlisted, he changed his MOS to Explosive Ordinance Disposal and studied for seven months at Elgin Air Force Base, in Florida. He graduated from the EOD class Aug. 2, 2006. The class began with 48 students, but only nine completed graduation.
He then served in Okinawa, Japan and was deployed to Iraq to serve a six month tour. He also received cold weather survival school training in the northern mountains of California. His last home base was Camp Pendleton, California before deploying to Iraq in February 2009.
He was awarded the Navy and Marine Achievement Medal in Oct. 2007 and received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant on Aug. 1, 2008.
State Representative Danny Bubp was wearing a pin with a photo of Tony Wojciechowski during a prayer service held in Brown County on May 7 and commented on the life, the service and the ultimate sacrifice paid by SSgt. Wojciechowski.
A chance meeting with SSgt. Wojciechowski was reported by U.S. Navy Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Joseph Jeffcott, a Clermont County resident currently serving in Iraq.
"We have a habit over here as military members that when you talk to a guy he asks where you're from and then he finds a guy in his unit who is from the same area," said Jeffcott. "This is what happened to me a few months back. I was doing operations and talking with a group of Marines when one of them said 'Hey Ski, this guy is from Cincinnati.' Not only was he from Cincinnati, he was from my area of Cincinnati. His name was SSgt. Tony Wojciechowski. I talked to him for about 30 - 40 minutes and truly enjoyed getting to know him."
Jeffcott remembered him being very athletic looking and said he seemed to be a strong leader. He also noted his devotion to the Marine Corps. He received word on May 1 that Wojciechowski had been killed in action.
"This is the hardest part of a deployment and being in the military. It may seem like we are separated from the tragedy of the deaths where we are, but we aren't," said Jeffcott. "As a member of the military, every person is your brother, sister, mother, father, just simply family. No matter the amount of time you have known them. Over here every person, every moment in life is precious and important. Their loss becomes another piece of scar tissue you carry for the rest of your life on your heart, but it is no comparison to the pain the family feels."
SSgt. Wojciechowski is survived by his mother and step father, Teresa and Tony Dillinger; his father and step mother, Mark and Dawn Wojciechowski, of New Jersey; one sister, Tiffany Dillinger; stepsister, Courtney; his grandparents, David and Judy Grose, of Cincinnati, Margo Wojciechowski, of New Jersey and Jim and Kathi Dillinger, of Williamsburg and numerous relatives. He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Frank Wojciechowski.