This Memorial Day was celebrated throughout our hometown in ceremonies and events to honor those who gave their lives in service to our country. On Thursday, June 3, 2010, another memorial event will occur. Our Federal Post office will be renamed the Corporal Joseph A. Tomci Post Office. This is in honor of a young man who enlisted in the Marines right out of high school in 2003, served two tours in Iraq and was killed in the Al Anbar province on Aug. 2, 2006 by a roadside bomb. He was just 21.
What made this young man special was the effect he had on all those who knew him and how his life and death touched a young class of 2nd graders who became his penpals while he was in Iraq. Tracy Piatt, a second grade teacher at Fishcreek Elementary School, had her students write and send packages to Joe while on tour after speaking with his father who often helped her with her school garden. Joe was so touched by the cards, letters and packages that he visited the class while on leave. He spoke to every student and answered all their questions. If ever a soldier had a fan club, that class was his.
“He wasn’t just a Marine, he was their Marine,” Piatt said. “When the students met Joe, they were so excited. As I walked down the hall that day with Joe, I think he was nervous.
“But when he walked into the room, the children just stopped and stared at him with such awe and admiration,” she said. “Their hero had just walked into their classroom. I could tell that Joe wasn’t comfortable with the hero worship — to him, serving in Iraq was just something he needed to do.”
The Mike Lesko, Associate Editor of the Stow Sentry, wrote about the impression Joe made on his friends and family in this article from August 2, 2009…otherwise known as “JoeTom Day”.
…At each year’s gathering, T-shirts are made with one of his quotes written on the back. This year, the quote was: “You guys will be telling your kids about me.”
Last year, the quote on the shirt was: “I’m doing this so you guys don’t have to.”
“Joe was very quotable,” said Phil Okonek, who was Mr. Tomci’s stepfather since he was 4.
Mr. Tomci’s father, John Tomci, died of cancer several months after his son was killed.
Okonek said Joseph Tomci always wanted to be a Marine. He said his stepson once met a Vietnam veteran who had a red star tattoo in memory of a fallen Marine, so Mr. Tomci got a red star tattoo on his back.
“Within a week of his passing, about 20 of his friends got red star tattoos,” Okonek said. “Now, about 50 friends and family members have them. It is their way of not forgetting Joe.”
That is because Mr. Tomci never forgot his friends, Okonek said.
“Joe always supported his friends when they were down and praised them when they did well,” he said.
His mother said, “His friends talk about how Joseph influenced and counseled them.”
She added with a smile, “Joseph once coached one of his buddies on how to talk to a girl.”…
…Mr. Tomci’s brother, Jason, 32, of Stow, said, “Joe was the first one to make you laugh. He could always diffuse situations with his humor.”I kept saying to people to try to celebrate his life instead of the gloom and doom,” he said. “That’s the way Joe would have wanted it.
“I think we really captured his spirit,” his brother said. “Having Joe’s pictures all around was a reminder that he is with us.”…
“Joseph was such a caring, concerned individual,” his mother said. “He loved us all, and he loved his country.”
So, this Thursday, in honor of a young man who made such a difference not only in those who knew him, but those who learn of him, the Stow Post Office will be renamed Corporal Joseph A. Tomci Post Office.