A young Fort Stewart soldier, who made Long County his adopted hometown and was known for his skills on the grill and love for the outdoors, was honored Thursday for "making the ultimate sacrifice for his country."
Spc. Charles A. Jankowski, 24, was killed on March 28 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle as he worked as part of a route clearance team in Arab Jabour, Iraq.
A member of the 3rd Infantry Division's Headquarter and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Jankowski was one of 10 fallen division soldiers honored with eastern redbud trees and engraved granite markers on Fort Stewart's Warriors Walk during a tree dedication ceremony Thursday morning.
"The flags here remind us of the nation we serve and the generations of Americans who are indebted to these 10 soldiers and their soldier brother and sisters whose names adorn these markers," Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Todd Buchs said as miniature flags adorning the base of each soldier's tree blew gently in the wind. "Young and old, soldier and civilian alike will walk these paths. They will pause and read their names and reflect on the sacrifice they made for freedom."
Jankowski, who was called "Ski" by his comrades, was a native Panama City, Fla., but Long County became his home away from home after he was stationed here in 2005. He purchased property in Ludowici and quickly made friends in the small town, many who attended the ceremony.
"We went to church together. He was a great guy, full of energy, always wanted to have a good time...I sure will miss him," Jankowski's friend Andy Mock said.
Another of the soldier's friends, Shawn Mills, described him as "just a real good guy." He reminisced about when Jankowski let him borrow one of his prized positions, his Ford F-150 crew cab with its mini-monster tires and Dukes of Hazzard horn.
"He loaned me his truck that he was so proud of to drive my daughters in a parade," Mills said. "He was a good friend and I'll miss him."
But as Jankowski's friends find it difficult to cope with his loss, his sister said many family members are having a much harder time realizing they won't get to hear his laugh or taste his specialty barbecue ribs ever again.
"I think...we know it's true, but I guess it still hasn't really sunk in because he was gone for so long as it was. May was year ago that he left," his older sister Felicia Kirkland said. "So in a way it just feels like he's still gone and is supposed to be coming home."
She said the things she will miss most about her little brother is his love for the outdoors and his smile.
"He just loved being outdoors. He hated being outside," Kirkland said. "And he always had this goofy smile anytime he was about to goof up...he just had the goofiest smile."
Spc. Charles A. Jankowski was one of 10 fallen 3rd Infantry Division heroes honored during Thursday's ceremony.
The others were:
• Pvt. Tyler J. Smith, 22, of Bethel, Maine, died March 21 at Forward Operating Base Falcon near Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when the base received indirect fire. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.
• Four of the Soldiers to be honored died March 24 in Baghdad after a bomb went off near their vehicle on March 23. They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team. They are:
Pvt. George Delgado, 21, of Palmdale, Calif.
Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Hake, 26, of Enid, Okla.
Pfc. Andrew J. Habsieger, 22, of Festus, Mo.
Spc. Jose A. Rubio Hernandez, 24, of Mission, Texas.
• Sgt. Jevon K. Jordan, 32, of Norfolk, Va., died March 29 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, from wounds suffered March 23 in Abu Jassim, Iraq, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th BCT.
• Sgt. Dayne D. Dhanoolal, 26, of Brooklyn, N.Y., died March 31 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when a bomb detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd BCT, Fort Benning.
• Staff Sgt. Jeffery L. Hartley, 25, of Hempstead, Texas, died April 8 in Kharguliah, Iraq, of wounds suffered during another bombing. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd BCT, Fort Benning.
• Spc. William E. Allmon, 25, of Ardmore, Okla., died April 12 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd BCT.
The addition of a memorial tree for each of these fallen Soldiers will bring the total number of trees on Warriors Walk to 408. These eastern red bud trees serve as a living monument to the men and women of the U.S. Army, the National Guard, and the 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers who were immortalized by their sacrifices.
Courier correspondent Mike Riddle contributed to this story.