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I'm in shock...

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Out of the Columbus {NE} Telegram:
Fremont soldier wanted to reach for the stars

By JANET NITSICK, Lee Enterprises

FREMONT -- Sgt. Philip J. Svitak was proud to serve, not just his country but all those in need.

"He was an unselfish person," said Steve Kuddes, whom Svitak served under in Fremont's Civil Air Patrol unit. "At the same time, he would reach for the stars, and I believe he has gotten them now."

Svitak, a Fremont native serving in the U.S. Army, was one of six servicemen killed in a firefight sometime after 8 p.m. Sunday near Shah-e-Kot, Afghanistan, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.

"He wore the uniform with pride all of the time," Kuddes said.

Even as a youth, Kuddes said, Svitak demonstrated leadership qualities, and those around him knew he was going to be involved in the military.

"He really enjoyed the search and rescue aspects of the civil patrol," said Ralph Gibbons, who also was a senior member of the patrol when Svitak served during the late 1980s.

Svitak, 31, and five of the others killed had just finished picking up a downed soldier when the firefight began.

Details of the incidents were sketchy. A Central Command spokesman, Marine Maj. Ralph Mills, said an MH-47 Chinook helicopter was flying low on a reconnaissance mission when it was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade that knocked a soldier out of the aircraft and caused a hydraulic problem.

A second MH-47 was flying in tandem with the first and rescued the downed crew, then returned to the area where the soldier fell out. The second helicopter dropped troops in that area, and six were killed in a firefight, Mills said.

Svitak, whose parents now live in Neosho, Mo., will be fondly remembered in the town where he grew up. He graduated from Fremont Senior High School in 1989.

"He was a fine young man, and we are very proud of what he did for us," said his aunt, Betty Svitak, who with her husband, Rainold "Ray" Svitak, lives in Fremont.

Eric Ulven said he and Philip Svitak had been longtime friends, getting acquainted as teen-agers as participants in the Civil Air Patrol and while attending Fremont High.

"We had a lot of common interests and we became really good friends," he said.

Svitak, Ulven and Shannon Stone were together so much they were called the "Three Musketeers," Ulven said.

But Svitak was a soldier's soldier, Ulven said, because he loved the patrol and the military. Both enlisted in the military shortly after they graduated from high school.

Svitak had planned to further his military career by undergoing training as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, Ulven said.

Troy Brewer said Svitak was his flight leader when he participated in the Civil Air Patrol. The two families became good friends.

Svitak was not only a good man, but he was also family-oriented and was just doing his part when he lost his life, Brewer said.

Svitak leaves behind a wife, Laura, and two sons, 4-year-old Ethan and 2-year-old Nolan. He recently was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.

"He took his family and his job very seriously," Ulven said. "Being in the Army, though, wasn't really a job to him. It was something he wanted to do, it was a having-a-mission-in-life kind of thing -- serving your country."

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Philip Svitak clearly understood his mission.

" \\We can't let them get away with it,' '' Richard Svitak, contacted at his home, remembered his son saying. "He was totally ready to go."

Philip Svitak learned in October that he might have to go to Afghanistan, but he told his mother not to worry.

"He told me before he went, \\Mom, the terrorists have to be stopped,' " Roseanne Svitak said. " \\If they send me over there and anything happens to me ... I'm proud to die for my country.' "

While Richard and Roseanne Svitak moved to Missouri about 10 years ago, they both were from the Fremont area. Richard Svitak grew up in Howells and Roseanne Parr Svitak grew up near Dodge.

"He was the best kid in the world," Richard Svitak, 57, said of his only child. "He loved his country. He loved his wife and his family especially."

The first Nebraska member of the military killed in the war with terrorists was Navy Capt. Lawrence D. Getzfred of Elgin, who died in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon.

Svitak was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, the Pentagon said. The remains of the seven arrived at a base in Ramstein, Germany, on Tuesday and are heading for the United States.

Reporters Cory Golden and Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

~ I was this man's first squadron commander back when we were both kids and he joined the C.A.P. I'm so shocked... I just can't believe it... I'm so proud of him, but so sad... I just can't believe it. (I know, I keep saying I can't believe it... I don't know what else to say!) I had lost contact with all of those people, but just hearing the names again... brings back so many memories! I was SO hard on those guys sometimes... but we were all such good friends back then... It's all so surreal... I'm now wondering where all my friends are. I know a lot of them are in the armed forces now quite a few went on to the Air Force...

Ah, I'm just rambling on now... I guess I just needed to talk.
post #2 of 7
I'm so sorry. It's always sad to read about these things, and even worse when it hit's close to home.

If you need to talk you know where to find me.
post #3 of 7
It IS shocking, even if that part of your life is past. Maybe you will feel better if you send flowers or make a donation of some kind to that unit. Honor the connection kind of thing.
post #4 of 7
I am so sorry to hear about this, how very, very sad. Especially since you knew him.
post #5 of 7
This is such a difficult time for so many. I was born and went to school in Nebraska, and both sides of my family are from there, too, so when I saw the byline as Columbus I got that tight feeling hoping it wasn't someone I knew also.

Difficult times like this can bring people together. Maybe you should do an internet search on some of your old friends. I'm sure they would love to hear from you and share the pain they have now too.
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thank you, everyone, for your kind words.

I had planned on sending flowers, or an email note, or SOMETHING, but I'm having one heck of a time finding ANY information on the funeral. It's one of those situations where he grew up in one town, then his parents moved to another state, and he married and moved to yet another state, so I have no idea where in the world it's even going to be. I'll keep checking the online newspapers in all 3 states and see if I can get any information out of them. If not, I may have my Dad make a few phone calls to the C.A.P. unit and see if they know anything.

I took your suggestion, valanhb, and did a search, but I didn't really come up with much. Just a few old email addresses is about it. Despite our best intentions to 'keep in touch', none of us really did. By the way, I sent you a PM, so you might want to check!

Anyway, I'm doing much better today... it was just such a shock yesterday that I didn't have the words to convey how I was feeling! I know exactly how I feel today, but since most if it is soooo politically INcorrect, I think I'll refrain from posting it here.
post #7 of 7
Well, I appreciate your wish to avoid being controversial. Nothing like feeling crappy and having a bunch of people jump on you for it.

On the other hand, feelings just are what they are and we don't always have control over them, tho' of course we choose how we act. It's one thing to be angry, and another to beat up the person you're mad at (I can guess that your feelings are deeper and stronger than that).

Political correctness is fine if you're in politics, maybe even necessary, but you are just a person having a life and life isn't always neat and pretty and socially acceptable. I hope you find a way to vent, even if it's not here.
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