By Al Macks and Tonya Townsell, Presidio of Monterey Public AffairsMarch 26, 2012
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - A Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center graduate was memorialized with a building dedication March 9 in recognition of her bravery and selflessness in paying the ultimate sacrifice for her country.
While redeploying with her unit to Kuwait, Sgt. Cari Anne Gasiewicz, a 2003 DLIFLC graduate, was killed Dec. 4, 2004, when driving a supply truck, which was hit by two improvised explosive devices. Gasiewicz was the only casualty; she was 28.
In recognition of her high professionalism as a Soldier, community members and leaders gathered March 9 to dedicate building 4399, the immersion facility on Ord Military Community, as Gasiewicz Hall.
Notably, Gasiewicz, who studied Arabic here, is the first female to have a Presidio of Monterey building named after her.
Former-Dean of the Immersion Program Andrei Pashin said that it is fitting the immersion facility be named after a Soldier such as Gasiewicz.
"When I first starting working at the Presidio of Monterey, all of the buildings were named after men at the Presidio of Monterey." He said. "Women were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I believed they should get the recognition they deserve. I wanted this building named after a woman. Today, I am proud to call this building Gasiewicz Hall. So, Cari Anne, I have to salute you for what sacrifice you have made."
He went on to explain why he called her "Cari Anne," rather than "sergeant."
"I am going to be 65 this year, and I started working at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center as a Russian teacher at the age of 30. Most of the students I taught were younger than me. … and she was like a kid to me," he said. "I can't do anything except salute her, she was willing to give her life to the service of this country, and that is something very special to all of us and especially me."
Pashin said that he has been very impressed by Gasiewicz and all the students he's known. "Their drive, dedication and hard work prove they are professionals and are skilled at what they do."
Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Commandant Col. Daniel D. Pick agreed about Pashin's take on Gasiewicz's professionalism in soldiering. "Gasiewicz deserves to be remembered for her outstanding military service, devotion to her country and love for her fellow comrades."
Presented to the Memorialization Committee was a narration of why Gasiewicz was worthy of having a building named after her.
The narration says Gasiewicz was admired and respected by all who knew her. She was a proactive, positive, highly competent leader who made intelligence happen through hard work and sheer determination, even under the most stressful and toughest conditions. She was a brilliant, charismatic Arabic linguist, and a tough no-nonsense professional Soldier.
Her selfless approach to life was on display in diverse ways--from teaching English to Korean children and adults while stationed in Korea to sharing home-baked goodies with her classmates at DLIFLC to practicing Iraqi dialects with local contractors during her lunch hours while in-country.
A person close to Gasiewicz when she died was Staff Sgt. Kimberly Simmons, who was devastated to learn of Gasiewicz's death after returning from a mission. Later, Simmons wrote that she was not only honored to have attended the memorial service for Gasiewicz and "to salute her as a fallen Soldier," but to be "lucky enough to have been her Military Language Instructor" at DLIFLC and to have served "with her as colleagues in Iraq."
According to one newspaper report, the attending priest at a ceremony held near Gasiewicz's hometown remarked that after Gasiewicz, while on leave at the time, told her father's co-workers at the New York State Department of Transportation that Iraqi children needed clothes and school supplies, co-workers collected twelve boxes of items that were sent to Iraq for Gasiewicz to distribute. Several accounts noted that she was in the process of arranging Christmas dinner for her unit (with the aid of her congressman) when she was killed.
Gasiewicz was noted as being just as generous on a professional level.
Her parents shared with CNN anchor Paula Zahn a message in memory of their daughter.
They said that 1st Sgt. Terrence Popp, Company F, 425th Infantry, wrote that their daughter helped the Soldiers of the 425th with "fresh intel dumps given to us on a daily basis. She went way out of her way to give us life-saving information. Information that we could not get from the normal channels. We worked for an Intel BN, and a buck sgt had the 411 on what was going on. I wish there was some way to repay that which she had done. She will be missed and may (of) those that she saved live on and honor her memory always."
Gasiewicz has been honored in numerous ways, including the naming of her unit's headquarters building at Fort Gordon, Ga.; recognition at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; having the street in Cheektowaga, N.Y., on which she grew up renamed "Cari Lane"; and even having a song written in her memory called "Red, White and Brave."
The song was written by Monterey resident Doug Gamble who met Gasiewicz in 2002.
According to Gamble, a former writer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as Bob Hope, Gasiewicz "was absolutely outstanding" and her devotion to the military and her country was inspiring. She "had an impact on us that went far beyond the length of time we knew her," he said in a Buffalo News article in 2006.
Gasiewicz contributed great value to the history of DLIFLC with her exemplary service as a linguist, with her valiant actions as a Soldier, and by the very strength and positive energy of her personality and lifestyle.
Gasiewicz Hall joins a select group of buildings. Those named in honor of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center's most distinguished graduates and faculty members.