Hometown hero remembered for

Friday, April 6, 2007
Photo by Kay Rose Lt. Col. Richard Thompson, commander, Third Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, presents the flag that draped Staff Sgt. Marc Golczynski's coffin to his 8-year-old son Christian during Wednesday's burial services at Wheel Cemetery. The fallen Marine died March 27 while serving in Iraq.

Thousands of Marshall County residents turned out Wednesday to honor a man who grew up in his hometown of Lewisburg where he joined the Marine Reserves. He returned from Iraq to live and work in Murfreesboro at his father's business, only to return to the war-torn country where he died during combat 10 days ago.

Staff Sgt. Marcus Andrew (Marc) Golczynski, 30, had "a life that ended far too soon, but which was given willingly," Father John Sappenfield said in the opening prayer for the Marine's funeral at the Church Street Church of Christ nearly a block from the public square where Golczynski's passing was honored so close to Easter.

"This week, the world unites," Father Sappenfield said. "Celebrating and worshiping God in the public square are possible because of your sacrifice."

Staff Sgt. Golczynski perished as a result of small arms fire at Fallujah. He was laid to rest in Wheel Cemetery on the north side of Highway 64 just east of the Bedford County line where traffic was stopped and redirected for hours.

Heather Golczynski, mother of the slain Marine's 8-year-old son, Christian, told an overflow audience in the Lewisburg church that her "most amazing realization is... how many lives Marc touched...

"Marc will always be a hero to me and Christian and we will carry him forever," said Heather Golczynski who quoted British Prime Minister Tony Blair as having said only two people have died for you; Jesus Christ and those in the U.S. military.

"He found purpose in the Marines," she said as her son wore his father's dog tags during the services that included the Marines' presentation of a Purple Heart to their fallen comrade's family.

"He was my chameleon," Heather said of how Marc could "fit in" all groups and bring laughter, a trait his brother, Jon, didn't always understand, although the brother rose to the occasion and resumed that trait with a bittersweet quip, "Marc is conveniently absent at another family event."

An extra wave of grief flowed across the congregates when Jon Golczynski reported the family's loss that Wednesday morning of "a very special grandfather," Warren Tyre of Alma, Ga., father of the brothers' mother, Elaine Huffines of Motlow College Road, Moore County.

Tyre had an extended illness and word of his decline reached the family Tuesday, the day of visitation in Chapel Hill for Golczynski, according to Staff Sgt. Matt Doak. He's the Shelbyville fire captain and undertaker who was called personally and professionally after Golczynski died on the afternoon of March 27.

His sacrifice can be "the duty of those who serve to make sure the horrors of terrorism never touch the shores of our country again," according to Marines who wrote of a lost comrade: "Ski ... a plain tough guy who led his platoon..."

The Rev. Claude McMillian of the First Presbyterian Church of Lewisburg said 19 years ago when "Marc finished his confirmation, he was very concerned that his name was spelled right," and the European name stood out to one of the Marine officers who remembered him as a leader.

As a boy, Rev. McMillian said, Golczynski brought his "friend" Curious George to church and the pastor recalled that the stuffed cartoon figure "attended more regularly than some members," although the boy who grew up to be a Marine could fall asleep sooner than others who nap during sermons.

At the Golczynski home, McMillian said, where Jon was 6 years older than Marc, "The rough-housing was a good preparation for wrestling" on the Marshall County High School grappling team, "and that [prepared him] for the U.S. Marines."

The pastor said, "We live in a dangerous world ... Palm Sunday found Jesus riding into town on a donkey ... Oh that you know what makes peace ... Teddy Roosevelt said 'Speak softly but carry a big stick.' Marc was about both of those tasks."

His relatives have repeated their delight in his ability to cheer the Marshall County Tigers football team as the costumed mascot and then remove the large tiger head to play in the band's brass section during half time.

"They were so afraid that when he backed up, he would trip on his tail," Susan Brassel of Macon, Ga., sister of the Marine's father, Henry Golczynski, said Tuesday night during visitation at Lawrence Funeral Home.

"Marc and Jon ... were hilarious together," Brassel said, recalling the brothers telling funny stories of her daughter, Lea Lane Coleman, after her death. "That's why I feel so sad for Henry. You're not supposed to bury your children.

Henry Golczynski worked in Moultre, Ga., where his boss persuaded him to move to Lewisburg to work at the Faber-Casteel pencil plant. That was when Marc was 3. Henry's desire to go into printing led him to Murfreesboro where he's the proprietor of Franklin Print Works. Marc was a sales representative for the press and relatives recall that he asked Henry for his blessing before he returned to duty.

At Wheel Cemetery, "Taps" was played by HM-II Daniel Troy of Nashville, a sailor who'd checked in for duty just before Golczynski's unit was mobilized.

"He was a great Marine," the sailor said shortly before Staff Sgt. Daniel Jimenez started to collect the bullet shells from the Marine rifles firing a 21-gun salute to honor Golczynski.

Marines from his unit volunteered for the duty this week and Jimenez said plaques made for such Marines frequently include the 21 shells.

Born March 16, 1977, in Georgia, Golczynski grew up in Lewisburg where he joined the Marine Reserves.

Nearly 60 Marines arrived for the services and remembrances came from around the world, including e-mails from Iraq read aloud during the service, and one from Cpl. Amanda (Cordova) Smith, previously of Cornersville, who's been stationed in California.

"Sgt. Golczynski was an awesome guy," she said. "I met him just before he left for Iraq and I thought for sure he would come home safely."

During the funeral, Jon Golczynski told his nephew, "Christian, take a look around. There are a lot of people who love you."

The brothers spoke for the last time on March 25, the day before Jon's birthday. It was two days before Marc died.

"We discussed his homecoming and our new daughter, Emma Ross," Jon said, then repeating the three things he always told Marc during such phone calls: "I miss you. I love you and I couldn't be more proud of you."