Thursday, May 03, 2007

Peter Woodall remembered

During her year in Iraq, Army Spc. Katarzyna Wloka saw soldiers suffering, and she saw them die.

As a medical logistics technician, the Sarasota native worked at clinics where many of the casualties of war spent their final moments.

She had returned stateside when her big brother, Marine Sgt. Peter Woodall of Sarasota, told her he was going back to Iraq for his second tour of duty.

Her heart sank.

"I didn't want anything to happen," said Wloka, 21. "I understood what was going on. I didn't want to think of my brother as being there."

Her 25-year-old brother had signed up for one of the riskiest jobs in the war as a technician with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company.

Woodall's family got word on Friday that he and one of his close friends in the company had died that day while trying to defuse a roadside bomb in the Anbar province of Iraq.

Wloka, whose Army unit is based in Kentucky, packed her bags and flew to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to be with her brother's wife and 3-year-old son.

Woodall's family is planning a memorial at Camp Lejeune, and his funeral will be at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. A date has not been set.

"His mind was set," Wloka said about her brother's decision to work in the EOD company.

"I don't really know why he wanted it. I told him it was stupid. That's a dangerous job."

Woodall had a close call in his first tour in Iraq, as an infantryman.

He was struck in the arm by shrapnel and returned stateside for several years. He was awarded a Purple Heart, one of nine decorations he had received since joining the Marine Corps in 2000.

He briefly considered leaving the military and joining the Florida Highway Patrol. To Wloka's dismay, he changed his mind and was resolute about returning -- just like his sister when she enlisted in the military over his objections.

Just as her brother had done, Wloka joined the JROTC at Riverview High School, where both were active.

The program's former senior instructor, Norman MacLellan, remembers Woodall.

"He was very athletic, very much involved," he said. "He loved ROTC. All of his friends were in it.

"I just can't say enough about the guy."

Woodall graduated from Riverview in 2000.

He was known then by his father's last name, Wloka, but had since taken his stepfather's name.

His sister transferred to the Sarasota Military Academy. And as her brother had, after graduation, she joined the military immediately.

"I told him I wanted to go and experience it, and see how it is," she said.

"He wanted me to go to college and be a good family member and good sister and good daughter."

But Wloka said he respected her decision and tried to prepare her by giving her brotherly advice, mainly about being a woman in the service.

The last time she talked to her brother was in February. He called her as he was getting ready to board a plane headed back to the war.

Wloka told him he was going to be an uncle.

"I told him I was pregnant with twins and asked him to be the godfather," she said between sobs. "He said he would be honored."

From the Herald Tribune

Related Link:
Peter Woodall killed 'while conducting combat operations'