Veterans Day is a day that resonates very close to my heart. My sister, Elizabeth Loncki, was the first female from Delaware to die in combat.
After graduating from Padua Academy and attending the University of Arizona briefly, she enlisted in the Air Force in 2003, as service to our country was a cause she deeply believed in. Elizabeth was a beautiful, petite, young woman, and not someone you would imagine to be a member of the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), the highest challenge you can have in the Air Force.
After achieving a high score on the Air Force entry test, Elizabeth chose to serve as a bomb disposal technician – an assignment assumed by very few women in the military. In her year-long deployment to Iraq, she ended up saving hundreds of people’s lives. Her team – Team Lima – successfully executed 194 missions on the outskirts of Baghdad, resulting in the safe disarming of 129 IED’s.
In January of 2007, her explosive ordnance disposal team was targeted by a car bomber near Baghdad, resulting in the death of her and her other team members. Elizabeth was only 23-years-old.
Elizabeth was scheduled to return home to New Castle only 20 days after her passing, and her boyfriend had a flight booked to Delaware to ask my dad for her hand in marriage.
I tell you this story because situations like this are common for military families all over the nation. My sister, just like thousands of others, paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. She joined the Air Force saying, “If I could only save one life, it would be worth it.” She fulfilled this many times over, according to the United States Air Force.
One of the many medals my sister received was the Purple Heart Medal of Honor for wounds suffered in combat. And our entire family was so proud last month when the State dedicated a bridge over Del. 1 at Dover Airforce Base in her honor.
My sister’s sacrifice for our country, just like the sacrifice of thousands of other military members, will never be forgotten.
Today, we honor and remember all military veterans and show our gratitude for their bravery, courage, and selflessness as they risked their lives in order to protect our own and our freedom. These brave heroes deserve our appreciation every day for their bravery, courage, and strength.
I personally know the severe impact that the loss of a service member does to a family. Although I was young at the time, the pain never subsides. I am reminded of Elizabeth every day I push myself to achieve a higher goal, just as my sister did.
I hope this Veterans Day we can come together to give back since our Veterans are the reason we have the freedom to the things we enjoy every day.
As the owner of Pure Barre, Olivia Loncki will be accepting donations for the Wounded Warrior Project and the Military Order of the Purple Heart at her studio in Greenville on November 12th.