Remembering the Life and Memory of...
SSgt. Edward Karolasz
Hometown: Kearny, New Jersey, U.S.
Age: 25 years old
Died: November 19, 2005 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Unit: Army, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, KY.
Birth: Oct. 25, 1980
New Jersey, USA
Death: Nov. 19, 2005, Iraq
KEARNY - A town resident was one of the five U.S. soldiers killed Saturday by a pair of roadside bombs in northern Iraq, his family told The Jersey Journal yesterday.
Staff Sgt. Edward Karolasz, of the Army's 101st Airborne Division 3rd Brigade Combat Team, was killed while on patrol near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. Five other American soldiers were wounded in the attack.
Karolasz, who turned 25 less than a month ago, had returned to Iraq in September for his second tour of duty.
"He already went one time," his mother, Krystyna Karolasz, said yesterday, choking back tears in the family's dining room as she held a dried rose her son had given her before leaving for his first tour.
"I don't know why they sent him back. I can't even imagine living without him," she said.
His father, also named Edward Karolasz, sat inconsolable in an armchair, too distraught to speak to reporters.
Karolasz's 26-year-old sister, Kristine Karolasz, said her brother served in Iraq from 2002 through 2003, and was stationed in Kirkuk. He'd told her that his current post near Beiji was "much worse."
"We were nervous for him, but we never thought this would happen," she said.
He last visited his family in Kearny in May, when he was home for a month.
Kristine Karolasz said she last heard from her brother a week and a half ago, when he sent her a letter asking her to send flavored coffee, coffee filters and a pillow.
"He said, 'I'm tired of sleeping on my towel,'" she said. "But he never got the pillow."
The Karolasz family was notified of his death when an Army chaplain arrived at their Chestnut Street home Saturday evening, said his sister Donna Karolasz, 24. He is the third soldier from Hudson County to die in Iraq.
Since the time he was a young boy, Edward Karolasz always had the same dream - to serve in the U.S. military.
"From the time he was about 10, all he wanted to do was join the Army," his sister Donna Karolasz said yesterday as she sat at her family's dining room table, looking over family snapshots. "He loved the Army."
Several photos of Karolasz in uniform, as well as military certificates of achievement, adorn the walls and furniture tops of the Chestnut Street dining room.
Karolasz, who joined the Army shortly after graduating from Kearny High School in 1999, was set to leave the military in March 2006, but recently decided to re-enlist, his sister Kristine Karolasz said.
Always in search of adventure, Karolasz saw the military as a perfect opportunity to explore the world, she said.
"He had been all over," Kristine said. "He's been to Italy, France, Germany, Kosovo, Switzerland, Iraq."
A year after graduating from high school, Karolasz was in Kosovo, telling a reporter from the American-Statesman of Austin, Texas, that he'd just completed basic training before shipping out.
In an article published May 30, 2000, Karolasz told the newspaper the local children had welcomed American soldiers to the town of Gjilane with high-fives.
"They love us. The kids run out and shout, 'NA-TO! NA-TO!' as we walk by. How cool is that?" Karolasz said.
Karolasz enjoyed life in high-gear, taking on hobbies such as skiing, bungee jumping and canyon jumping, his sisters said.
"He was never someone to sit down and be in his books," Kristine said. "He always wanted to get out there and do things."
Outside the attached home yesterday, a black ribbon shared a flag post with an American flag.
A yellow ribbon also hung from a lamp while a "Proud to be an American" flyer and a photo of the soldier faced out from a front window.
News of Karolasz's death spread quickly in the town of 40,000. Kearny High School Principal Frank Digesere said the school would hold a moment of silence at the end of the school day yesterday in memory of the first Kearny High School alumnus to die in the Iraq War.
"I just hope this is the first and last death," Digesere said.
Karolasz's high school counselor, Ron Schmidt, said he will remember Karolasz most for the permanent smile on his face."He was a really happy, friendly, clean-cut kid. He always came back to visit in his uniform," Schmidt said.
Kathleen Astrella, another Kearny High counselor who also taught Karolasz when he was at Lincoln School, labeled him as "a gentleman through and through."
"He was a kid you liked immediately," she said.
He was a member of the American Legion Post in Kearny.
Surviving are his parents, Krystyna (nee Seredynski) and Edward Karolasz; sisters, Donna and Kristine, and a brother, John Jastrzembski,also survived by one niece, Brianna Lancha.
Holy Cross Cemetery
New Jersey, USA