Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mother Loses Son In Iraq, House To Katrina

1st Lt. Robert C. Oneto-Sikorski

At the burial service on Thursday for his father, First Lt. Robert C. Oneto-Sikorski, Robert Oneto-Sikorski (left), 11, salutes Maj. Gen. Harold Cross while his mother, Claire Rager, looks on at Biloxi National Cemetery.

The Clarion Ledger (MS)
Bravery and grief
Officer's death in Iraq another blow for Coast family
By Lora Hines
BILOXI-- First Lt. Robert C. Oneto-Sikorski couldn't wait to come home next month so he could legally give his last name to the two youngest of his three children, whom he called his three Skis.

"He said, 'Tell my three Skis I love them,' " said Jeanmarie Lindberg, the children's grandmother and mother of his longtime companion, Claire Rager.

The next day, Oneto-Sikorski, affectionately known as Ski to his soldiers, died near al Haswah, west of Baghdad, when a roadside bomb exploded while he was on foot patrol. He was 33.

Lt. Sikorski was survived by his three children ages 11,9, and 6. When he returned his intention was to give his youngest two his surname. Maj. Gen Harold Cross othe Mississippi National Guard spoke of the unique type of courage a person like Lt. Sikorski represents:

"He relinquished his leave .for rr other soldiers to go," Cross said. He said it was typical of Oneto-Sikorski that he would check a roadside explosive device himself, rather than ask one of his soldiers do it....
It was one of these, now infamous, IED's that killed Lt Sikorski. Are your eyes dry? If they are you are made of sterner stuff than I am. Wait though because this story takes an even more tragic turn.

While Robert was moving closer to his end, back in his hometown of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, His family was involved in another life or death struggle. Hurricane Katrina had hit Bay St. Louis hard wrecking his home and that of his parents. His oldest son, Robert Jr., became a hero himself.
Lindberg (The mother of Sikorski's partner Claire Rager) said the younger Robert swam and saved his brother, Patrick Rager, who had been snatched out of her arms by rushing water. Lindberg, the boys and their sister, Hannah Rager, were among several relatives who fought the storm to get to the home of her father, Harry Rager. Thirteen family members and friends and three dogs found safety in Harry Rager's attic.

The families incredible story was not finished yet as it got progressively worse, but two unlikely allies offered bi-partisan support: (From Yahoo News)

.... Eloise Kindja (Sikorski's aunt), however, said she felt betrayed that Oneto-Sikorski was fighting for his country — and ultimately gave his life — even as his family battled the Federal Emergency Management Agency for temporary shelter.

"What more does she have to give to the country?" Kindja asked. "She gave her only son."

The sentiment apparently resonated with Gov. Haley Barbour and U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., who sprang into action, Oneto said.

Just one day after The Associated Press reported Oneto-Sikorski's death and the struggles of his family, Oneto received a mobile home. Power and water were immediately connected, Oneto said.

Some of you good folkaskinginging, well where is the mother of Sikorski's three kids? Why wasn't she evacuating her kids? Why were the grandparents and their families doing all the running around? The answer to that question, and BOY IS IT A KICKER can be summed up in one word: IRAQ! Yes Claire Rager was stationed with the 155th MSNG in Iraq. Fortunately she was granted emergency leave from her deployment to attend the funeral and to take care of family business.

The 155th MSNG has taken a pounding in Iraq, thus far of the approximately 3,500 deployed 34 have been killed.

I do not know where you may stand on the war and it is not the intention of this article to express mine, the rest of the site does that quite well. My intentions, through this article, was to bring to your attention a true hero. A man who gave his time and his life protecting those under his command and the nation he called home. It was also to highlight how this family's story is a microcosm for the United States in 2005.

There are three children, now fatherless, who must also combat the fears associated with losing there home to the worst natural disasters in this nation's history. They must await there mothers return from Iraq, as must the whole family of the 155th MSNG. Fortunately, their wait will not be long. The 155th is scheduled to rotate home in January.

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