Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Justin Wisniewski laid to rest

STANDISH - His teachers remember him for his classroom antics. His friends remember him for his million-dollar smile. On Monday, the entire community of Standish remembered Sgt. Justin D. Wisniewski as a hero.

The 22-year-old fallen soldier was laid to rest on Memorial Day, as several hundred mourners created a brilliant trail of red, white and blue stretching the four miles from Resurrection of the Lord Catholic Church to Pine River Cemetery. During the funeral services, Wisniewski was remembered as a young man who loved his country, and perhaps even more, loved the small town where he grew up.

"Justin got to see the world, but his heart always belonged in Standish," said Beth Wenkel, Wisniewski's girlfriend, who gave an emotional eulogy.

"He was so proud of this town, sharing stories with his comrades in New York and Iraq, and showing off pictures of the family farm."

Wisniewski died May 19 in Iraq after suffering wounds from a bomb blast.

Wisniewski did his best to make everyone laugh, his friends recalled. And he was good at it.

Even in death, Wisniewski brought out smiles and laughter among the hundreds who attended his funeral. A photo slideshow played before the service showed his big grin, goofy faces and activities he loved, including his military career.

"Justin squeezed a lifetime worth of experiences and memories into 22 years," Wenkel said.

A 2003 graduate of Standish-Sterling Central High School, Wisniewski loved hunting and fishing. Above all, he was hard working, family members say. He used to get up first thing in the morning to do his chores, and at the end of the day, it was time for football.

He was described as a guy who would do anything for anyone - and in the end he sacrificed his life. The Rev. James M. Fitzpatrick, who officiated at the funeral, said he couldn't help but reflect on that sacrifice as Wisniewski's flag-draped casket was brought to the church on Sunday. He thought about the circumstances of Wisniewski's death: He died trying to rescue three fellow soldiers who had been captured after an enemy ambush.

"There is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends," Fitzpatrick said, quoting from Scripture. "It's what Christ did for us, and in imitation of him, it's what Justin did for his fellow soldiers," he said.

As the slideshow came to a finish, a photograph of Wisniewski in full gear, waving at the camera, overtook the screen. The photo was taken in Iraq when he went back in April after a brief trip home on leave. He was due home again in August.

"When we first saw it, it was like he was telling everyone hello," said Wisniewski's sister Jessica, 24. "Now I look at it, and know he was waving goodbye."

From the Bay City Times

Related Link:
Justin D. Wisniewski dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit'

Related Link:
Perspective: As Comrades Search, Fatal Bomb Wreaks Havoc