Friday, April 20, 2007

Lucas V. Starcevich dies of injuries from I.E.D.

TOLONO – Army Pfc. Lucas Starcevich never wanted his family to worry.

His mother, Ava Tomson, spoke with him three times last week and had last talked to him on Friday.

"He would just call to say, 'Hi, Mom, I'm OK,'" Tomson said. "He knew I would worry when I would hear reports of problems." It was to be the last time Tomson would speak with her son and she remembers his final words to her – "I love you." "We both said 'I love you,'" she said, fighting back tears at a press conference Wednesday in front of the family's home in Tolono.

Pfc. Starcevich – a member of the Army's 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division – died Monday from injuries suffered when a homemade bomb exploded near his vehicle in Baghdad.

"He was doing what he wanted to do," Tomson said. "I can't ask any more than that." Pfc. Starcevich was 25.

"Of course we hold each other together," Tomson said of her husband Rick.

"Our faith is the No. 1 thing. Lucas had a deep faith, and that is something else that keeps us going."

The Tomsons are grateful for the support they are receiving from residents of Tolono, Savoy and Champaign. Ava Tomson said she has had to establish a schedule to organize the flood of food donations, and that her boss and co-workers drove her home the day the military informed her of her son's death.

"You don't know how many friends you really have until you go through something like this," Tomson said. "This is the best community."

Ava Tomson has been active in Military Moms and Comfort Quilts, two support groups for military families. Now she is on the receiving end of the consolation that she has so often offered to other soldiers' mothers.

"My Military Moms group held my hand," she said. "Now they're reaching out to me. They're going to help me until I'm OK. When I'm better and able to go there, I will be back at it. It's a ripple effect."

Pfc. Starcevich attended Unity High School, Aurora High School and Parkland College and first enlisted in the Army in 2000.

It was Pfc. Starcevich's second tour of duty in Iraq. After his first tour as a chemical weapons specialist, he was honorably discharged in 2004 and went back to school. In January he re-enlisted with a unit based in Schweinfurt, Germany.

"He said, 'This (school) isn't my thing,'" Tomson said. "He never could get over the rest of his buddies still over there." It was while stationed in Germany that Pfc. Starcevich met his fiancee through some friends.

"She's devastated," Ava Tomson said. "He was her life. But she's my daughter anyway; she's part of my family. She was the best thing that ever happened to him." The military is bringing Pfc. Starcevich's fiancee from Germany.

"I have to say, the military, they're doing everything for us," Tomson said. "They're awesome."

Pfc. Starcevich's interest in the military started at a young age when he would play soldier and emulate his grandfather, a World War II Navy veteran.

"He worshipped his grandpa," Tomson recalled. "Lucas had this little military outfit given to him, and I had to wait until he was asleep to wash it. (A soldier) was what he was destined to be."

Pfc. Starcevich's hobbies included drawing, painting and skateboarding. He loved animals and had trained his family's two dogs.

"He was the type of guy who could fix something or build something without any instructions," family spokesman Edward Mennenga said.

His father and stepmother, Brad and Glenda Starcevich, also survive Pfc. Starcevich.

The family is setting up a memorial fund that will go toward the educational expenses of his younger brothers and sisters. The family asks that until that fund is established, donations in Pfc. Starcevich's honor be made to the local VFW.

The soldiers from Pfc. Starcevich's unit are putting together stories and memories of him to send to his family, according to the wife of one of the soldiers, who called Ava Tomson on Wednesday.

"The unit thought highly of Lucas and he was the glue that helped hold them together," Mennenga said. "He was always there to keep their spirits up and get them going."

Tomson said she remembers her son saying he hadn't understood how wonderful life was in this country until he was overseas.

"Our request is that everyone honor the sacrifices these men and women and the families left behind are making," she said.

Tomson said her son would want to be remembered "as a soldier, as one of his brothers, someone doing what his country asked him to do. And he would want people to remember the others there. They're all our children."

From the News Gazette