A young soldier who fought and died in Afghanistan was remembered by those who loved him at a wake on Staten Island Thursday. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
The flag outside the Hanley Funeral Home waved at half staff Thursday as family, friends and neighbors turned out Thursday to pay their respects to 24-year-old Staff Sergeant Michael Ollis. He died last month while on his second tour in Afghanistan.
"It's hard to make sense of it," said Joan Greenberg, a family friend.
"Very, very nice young man," said Vito Giobbie, a family friend. "I've been in his company numerous times. I would say you couldn't ask for a better person."
The Defense Department says Ollis was killed in an attack by insurgents. His family says the Army told them he died trying to save others in his unit.
He was a decorated soldier, and those who knew him say he was doing what he loved.
"Mike was a really, really nice person," said Brian Hemsworth, who grew up with Ollis. "He touched people in a way that not everyone does, and he gave his life and his entire adult years just serving the country. This way, we can live the way we want to live."
Staff Sergeant Ollis joined the army in 2006 and served in Iraq before seeing action in Afghanistan. He re-deployed there in January. He was expected to end that tour next month.
"He did everything right," said Irene Harrison, a family friend. "He was very...I can't say enough about him."
Ollis grew up in New Dorp. Dozens of his classmates at Petrides High came to bid farewell to a friend they remembered fondly as a terrific soccer player who was always quick to lend a helping hand.
"Mike was one of those kids, he did it all. Always had a smile on his face, whether it was playing soccer, doing things with the ROTC at school," said John Jastremski, a friend of Ollis. "To hear the news, someone serving our country and doing the right thing, it was tough to take."
Ollis' funeral will be held Saturday morning at Our Lady Queen of Peace. He will be buried on Staten Island at Resurrection Cemetery. He would have turned 25 on Monday.