Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Allen Greka remembered

Oh, sure, Allen Greka probably could have landed a job at the LaFarge Presque Isle Quarry when he finished high school.

After all, his dad worked as a driller at LaFarge, the fourth largest crushed stone quarry in North America and one of the largest employers in upstate Michigan.

But Greka wanted to get away from the Thunder Bay region, where, hopefully, more opportunities would present themselves to an ambitious teenager.

"There weren't a whole lot of options here for my son," said Steven Greka, a lifelong resident of Alpena, Mich., a town of 12,000 on the Lake Huron shore.

One option was the Army, which he joined right out of Alpena High.

"We all thought he made the right decision," said the elder Greka. "I know he loved what he was doing."

Sgt. Allen Greka, 29, had just re-enlisted for the second time and was considering a career in the Army, one that might one day lead to a good job in law enforcement.

"That was his dream, anyway," said his father Tuesday morning.

But Allen Greka was not able to live out that dream.

Less than a week after his first wedding anniversary, on Friday the 13th, Greka died of wounds suffered from a land mine detonation in Jisr Diyala, Iraq.

"It's tough on me and my wife," Steven Greka said. "Allen was our only child. It's very hard to believe that he won't be coming home this time. For every minute we go on, two seconds are OK, and 58 are bad."

Allen Greka didn't leave with the rest of Fort Benning's 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, when it was deployed in March.

"He was allowed to stay here until Jennifer, his wife, delivered the baby," Steven Greka said. "Then he rejoined his unit in Iraq." Lillith Greka recently turned 4 months old.

A .50-caliber machine gunner on a Humvee, Allen Greka was no stranger to combat.

"Oh, he could tell some stories about the war," said the elder Greka. "His unit (from Fort Polk, La.) was in a firefight almost every day. One time he disarmed a rocket propelled grenade that had zipped past his leg and stuck right in the Humvee."

One thing for sure about Allen, said his dad: "He was a good shot."

As a young boy, father taught son the art of target shooting.

"He was so proud when he won a marksmanship medal in basic training," recalled Steven.

Later on, he and best friend Brad Dean loved to go duck hunting. "That's about the only hobby he had," he added. "That, and cheering the New York Giants in football and the Boston Celtics in basketball. They were his teams."

Another indication that Allen might be headed toward a military career came when he was in the fifth grade.

"A friend of ours gave him a copy of the Air Force survival guide," Steven said. "He spent hours reading and studying that thing. Before too long he had memorized every word in that book."

Neither Patti Greka nor Allen's grandmother Mary Jane Greka could talk about the past few days.

"We're devastated," said Patti, "but I must ask you to speak to my husband about our son."

Funeral services were incomplete on Tuesday. The Karpus-Hunter Funeral Home in Alpena will handle the arrangements.

Allen Greka's death was the 20th suffered by 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team soldiers since the unit was deployed in late March.

From the Ledger Enquirer

Related Link:
Allen A. Greka dies 'of wounds sustained from a land mine detonation during a dismounted patrol'