CAMP KOSCIUSZKO, Poland – Members of Polish and American armed forces and community gathered for a memorialization ceremony to rename the dining facility here to Staff Sgt. Michael Harold Ollis Warrior Grill in honor of the fallen hero on October 27, 2023.
The 24-year-old U.S. Army soldier from New Dorp, New York, served with the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light) during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“The 2nd battalion has a motto,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Eric J. Riley, deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division.
On August 28, 2013, Ollis’ last day of duty, he sacrificed his life during action by shielding Lt. Karol Cierpika, a Polish Army officer, from a suicide bomber throughout an insurgent assault on a forward operating base in Ghazni, Afghanistan.
“Deeds, not words,” Riley recited.
“By all accounts, Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis lived that motto every day of his life, especially August 28, 2013,” Riley said.
Riley said the memorialization will not bring Michael back or ease the pain of his loss, but it will commemorate a true American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“The memorial reminds us of Michael’s courage and bravery throughout his service,” Riley said.
Esteemed guests, Michael’s parents, Robert and Linda Ollis, his sister, Kelly Manzolillo, and the Polish Army officer whose life he saved, Lt. Karol Cierpika, joined to unveil his portrait and a memorial plaque tribute. The family traveled to Poznan from the U.S. to attend the ceremony and honor their son’s life and selfless acts of heroism during his Army service.
Michael was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and Polish Army Gold Medal for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity under fire. Years later, in 2019, his award was upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military honor that can be awarded to a U.S. Army soldier.
“As a soldier and a commander, I am proud that Camp Kosciuszko, from this day forward, will call the dining facility the Staff Sgt. Michael Harold Ollis Warrior Grill,” said Polish Army Lt. Col. Adam Dabrowski, commander of the Polish Army 14th Garrison Support Unit. “It is a place where the Polish and Americans can dine together and strengthen as allies.”
Michael is a revered hero in the Polish community. He not only saved Cierpika but several lives during the attack.
“Ollis will always be in our hearts and minds,” Dabrowski said.
The Ollis family expressed gratitude during the occasion.
“The Army thanked us for coming; I am so grateful they allowed us to be here,” said Michael’s sister, Kelly Manzolillo.
The Ollis family now embraces Cierpika as part of their family, so they had more than one reason to be grateful for the occasion.
“It gave us a chance to visit Karol as well,” Manzolillo said.
Manzolillo said she was glad she and her parents could attend, and she said she was thankful for the kind dedication to her brother, Michael.
“He’s my baby brother,” she said.
Manzolillo said that she and her brother were incredibly close. She reminisced about caring for Michael as a child because they were born ten years apart. She said that while growing up, Michael aspired to greatness.
“He was fulfilling his dreams; he always wanted to be a soldier,” Manzolillo said. “Michael was brave and kind. His friends, teachers, and everyone only have kind words to say.”
Although it hurt to lose Michael so soon, she said his passing was ideal for how he lived his life, dedicated to the Army and his brothers in arms.
“We are proud of Michael,” Manzolillo emphasized. “So proud!”
Staff Sgt. Micheal Harold Ollis’ sacrifices exemplify the U.S. Army Soldier’s Warrior Ethos. The dining facility at Camp Kosciuszko will be a permanent reminder of his heroism and service.