Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki-May 2009 Shipment HonoreeThe Dialog (Diocese of Wilmington )
NEW CASTLE, Del. (The Dialog) – Stephen Loncki was surprised when his daughter Elizabeth told him she was enlisting in the Air Force. “But all of a sudden she had a clarity about her life,” he recalled. “She even signed up for the bomb squad. … She picked the toughest work; only two females in her class [of 16] graduated. She told me, ‘If I could only save one life, it would be worth it.’”
Loncki has taken consolation from the memory of his daughter’s words since Sunday, when a chaplain and two other uniformed officers came to his New Castle home to tell him that Elizabeth – Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki, 23 – had been killed earlier in the day in Iraq as her explosive-ordinance disposal team tried to dismantle a car bomb planted near Baghdad.
The members of the military delegation that broke the news to Stephen Loncki told him that they had been in Iraq themselves and knew firsthand how such disposal crews have saved thousands of lives while risking their own during daily missions.
Loncki was remembered as a faithful Catholic who grew up in St. Peter the Apostle Parish, attended the parish school (like her father and grandfather) and graduated from Padua Academy in 2001.
Before deploying to Iraq in August, she was stationed in Ogden, Utah, at Hill Air Force Base, where she served at Mass as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and a sacristan, her father said.
Her faith had been nourished at home and at St. Peter’s, and she liked to spend her spare time with family – which includes a 10-year-old sister – and friends from her parish and schools, her father said.
At St. Peter’s, Stephen Loncki coached his daughter in volleyball; he influenced her decision to attend Padua, where she continued to play the sport. Elizabeth’s stepmother, Christine, also attended Padua, and her father went to Salesianum.
At Padua, Elizabeth Loncki was remembered by former teachers as intelligent and hard-working. “She was committed to success,” recalled Martha Holladay, an English teacher and department chairwoman who recalled the teenager arriving at school early to get help revising her senior-year research paper. In the end, it was nearly perfect, Holladay said. “She earned a 98 percent. I still use it as a model when teaching my current students. Liz had a gentle spirit, and she was a pleasure to teach.”
The school has set up a memorial in its foyer, next to the Prayer of St. Francis (“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace …”). A school spokeswoman said students and faculty plan to attend the funeral, and the volleyball team will wear something to commemorate Loncki’s participation in the sport.
Padua volleyball gave root to the friendship between Loncki and classmate Valerie Budischak. “We were really close,” Budischak, who works at the Ronald McDonald House in Rockland, said. “She was so strong – that’s one thing I really admired about her.”
It took a lot to get to know her, Budischak said, but once you did, “she was smart and funny and loyal and caring, and when she wanted something, she worked for it, no matter if she was good at it or not so good. She was very driven, but she could be silly and fun.”
During their years at Padua, Budischak said, Loncki spoke about her desire to go into the Air Force. “I wasn’t surprised because that was her personality; she was really tough. She had this desire to do good for others. It was her life.”
Loncki’s funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 13 at St. Peter’s Church. Burial with full military honors was in the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Bear.
She was eligible to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, said her father, “but that’s just too far.” Loncki was the first Delaware woman killed in the Iraqi war; 13 men from Delaware have died.
Air Force Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki
Driven by a competitive spirit, Elizabeth A. Loncki wasn’t afraid to try something new or to set high standards for herself. She was a 5-foot-5 dynamo who would do 51 “real” push-ups to her father’s 50, draw a crowd at the gym and, after achieving a high score on the Air Force entry test, choose to become one of the few women working as bomb disposal technicians. “She said, ‘That’s what I want to do,’ and that’s what she did,” grandfather Walter “Pop” Loncki said. “There was no stopping Elizabeth.” Loncki, 23, of New Castle, Del., was killed Jan. 7 by a car bomb in Mahmudiyah. She was a 2001 high school graduate and was assigned to Hill Air Force Base. She played volleyball, basketball and softball and was honored as one of her class’s most valuable athletes. For Christmas, her dad got a pen that delivers an electric shock to users; Elizabeth used it on her commander. “She was probably the only one who could get away with it,” said an aunt, Tina Masiello. She is survived by her father and stepmother Stephen and Christine Loncki; her mother Ann Roberts and her husband, Joey.
Air Force Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki, 23, of New Castle, Del.; assigned to the 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah; killed Jan. 7 by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device while performing duties in the Baghdad area. Also killed were Tech Sgt. Timothy R. Weiner and Senior Airman Daniel B. Miller Jr.
IED kills 3 airmen
The Associated Press
DOVER, Del. — A former New Castle resident was one of three airmen killed Sunday in a bomb blast near Baghdad, the Pentagon said Monday.
Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki, 23, died after her explosive ordnance disposal team was targeted by a car bomber near Al-Mahmudiyah, her family said. She is the first woman from Delaware to die in combat in Iraq.
Also killed in the blast were Tech. Sgt. Timothy R. Weiner, 35, of Tamarac, Fla. and Senior Airman Daniel B. Miller Jr., 24, Galesburg, Ill. The three were assigned to the 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
Loncki, who was deployed to Iraq in August, was scheduled to return home in 20 days, her family said. Her boyfriend, Sgt. Jayson Johnson, also stationed at Hill, had planned to visit the family’s New Castle home on Thursday to ask her father’s permission to marry her, said Loncki’s aunt, Tina Masiello.
Instead, Johnson will serve as a military escort for Loncki’s body as it is transported to the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base and prepared for burial.
“She was a beautiful, beautiful child,” a tearful Stephen Loncki said of his eldest daughter. “She loved her family and her family loved her. We miss her so much.”
Loncki, a New Castle native, attended St. Peter the Apostle grade school and graduated from Padua Academy in Wilmington in 2001. She briefly attended the University of Arizona before enlisting in the Air Force.
“She wanted to contribute to the country,” Masiello said, adding that Loncki expressed no reservations about going to Iraq.
“She was ready to go, it was a cause she deeply believed in,” she said. “She told us not to worry.”
Loncki last spoke to her family on Christmas Eve, as she opened presents her father had sent.
“I sent her a DVD of a concert and some popcorn, and filled her stockings with a bunch of Christmas goodies,” said Loncki, adding that he also sent several news magazines after her daughter said she and her fellow soldiers didn’t get a lot of information.
“She sounded melancholy,” Loncki recalled. “She knew her family was together and you could tell she felt far away … She was happy to talk to us, but a little sad, too, because she was so far away.”
Masiello described her niece as a faithful Catholic who enjoyed rock music and swimming, and whose beauty belied an athletic toughness evidenced by her status as a walk-on starter on Padua’s volleyball team and her ability to match boys push-up for push-up.
“She was incredibly pretty and petite and not somebody you would think of being on the bomb squad,” Masiello said. “She had a smile that brightened up the room.”
Family members said Loncki, who trained at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida before being stationed at Fort Hill, was one of only two women in her explosive ordnance disposal class.
“That’s what she wanted to do,” her father said. “She was a damn smart kid and she was good at what she did. I was always scared every second of the day, but she thought she could do some good. I believe in my heart that’s what she was doing every day.”
“It’s a terrible thing these kids — the price they’re paying for our freedoms,” Loncki added. “It’s just a terrible price to pay.”
In addition to her parents, Loncki is survived by a 10-year-old sister. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Thirty-six Air Force troops are the among the more than 3,000 Americans who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.
Air Force Times story (no longer available)
Memorials held for Hill airmen killed in IraqStaff Report
Posted : Tuesday Jan 16, 2007 5:55:22 EST
Balad Air Base, Iraq and Hill Air Force Base, Utah, bid their final farewells to three airmen from Hill’s 775th Civil Engineer Squadron who were killed in Iraq Jan. 7.
Hill held a memorial service for the trio on Jan. 12, and Balad followed with its own service on Jan. 15. Another service for the airmen was held Jan. 10 at Sather Air Base, Iraq.
The airmen are Tech. Sgt. Timothy R. Weiner, 35, of Tamarac, Fla.; Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki, 23, of New Castle, Del.; and Senior Airman Daniel B. Miller Jr., 24, of Galesburg, Ill.
“Tim, Liz, and Dan were among an elite group of nearly 1,200 active duty EOD Airmen that the rest of the world looks too,” said Lt. Col. Craig Biondo, the 775th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, during the ceremony at Hill. “Simply put, they were the best in the world.”
The airmen were deployed to Sather with the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron’s Explosive Ordnance Division.
“These were valiant combat warriors, and they gave their lives in the pursuit of the safety and security of the United States and the freedom and democracy of the Iraqi people,” Maj. Brian Hartless, 447th CES commander, said during the Sather service. “They were called to serve, and they did so with distinction, honor and courage. May we all be so fortunate to be remembered that way.”
The airmen were preparing to diffuse a bomb that was in a vehicle when it detonated, a Hill spokeswoman said. The deaths bring the number of airmen who have died during almost four years of fighting in Iraq to 31, according to U.S. Central Command Air Forces.
An airman from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Md., was wounded in the incident.
Weiner was the noncommissioned officer in charge of EOD operations for the 447th, Loncki was an EOD journeyman and Miller was an EOD apprentice, according to a Hill spokeswoman.The incident is still under investigation.
Memorial funds for the airmen’s families have been set up in their names through Wells Fargo. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch.
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Elizabeth during the month of May 2009 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in the Middle East. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Elizabeth’s family and friends today and in the years to come.