The Reaper is offline
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Free Pineland
Tycz, Peter P. II, SFC, SF
Cars choked the street in the City of Tonawanda neighborhood and a crowd of family and high school buddies spilled from the house into the yard, where a small American flag is staked near a tree ringed with yellow ribbon.
Chaos brought comfort to the family of Army Sgt. 1st Class Peter P. Tycz II, who was among three soldiers killed in Wednesday's crash of a military plane in Afghanistan. Tycz, assigned to the Army's 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) based in Fort Bragg, N.C., was the medic aboard the Air Force MC-130H that crashed and caught fire after takeoff southwest of Gardez.
In her crowded living room Thursday afternoon, Tycz's mother, Terry Harnden, held a printout of an e-mail message she received in response to a mother's prayer she sent her 32-year-old son last fall, when his deployment to the Afghanistan war zone appeared inevitable. The words of his message resonate:
Know this, I do what I do not just because I like it, but to ensure all of my family are safe from whatever treads on us!
What became an enviable military career had a rather inauspicious beginning. He signed up after graduating from Tonawanda High School in 1988, "because he had no idea what he wanted to do," his mother laughed.
Three years in, then a few months out, then off to Operation Desert Storm as an Army reservist. In 1996, he began training for the Special Forces - the famed Green Berets. Special Forces medics are much better trained and more skilled than the typical military medic, since they accompany Special Forces on their often-dangerous missions.
"They're emergency medical technicians, highly trained in combat lifesaving skills," said Maj. Robert Gowan, a Special Forces spokesman at Fort Bragg. "They're almost like trauma surgeons. If you get wounded, you want one by your side."
Previous deployments took Tycz to Africa, Bosnia, Central and South America, his mother said. He learned to speak Spanish, French, German and Bosnian.
Both family and friends said that when Tycz called home, which he did often, there was little talk of "business."
"He never talked much about the service," said his stepfather, Kevin Harnden.
"He talked about food," his mother said. "He needed food."
Care packages included candy, dried foods and music - soft, easy rock, and videos. Two large, cellophane-wrapped boxes that were ready for shipment sat on the living room floor Thursday, surrounded by floral arrangements.
His father, Peter, remembered Tycz talking about staying in an 800-year-old, bombed-out castle, where his unit had "adopted" a dog and her litter.
"He loved dogs and kids," another relative chimed in.
Harnden said she last talked with her son on the Sunday after Mother's Day.
"Peter never told us where he was," she said. "He did tell me he was 81/2 hours away when he first went. We didn't know what his specific duties were."
Gowan, the Special Forces spokesman, said a majority of the 3rd Special Forces was deployed to Afghanistan to relieve the 5th Special Forces. With between 1,300 and 1,400 personnel, the 3rd Special Forces specializes in missions in West Africa, but can also be deployed elsewhere, Gowan said.
Special Forces units perform a variety of roles, including infiltrating hostile areas by land, sea and air and gathering intelligence. Their motto is De Oppresso Liber - "To Free the Oppressed."
I feel my heart pound and my throat tighten every time I hear the Star Spangled (Banner) and tears come to my eyes because I am part of a special unit with a special breed of person.
Harnden said she last saw her son in December, during a visit to the North Carolina home he shared with his wife, Tami Parmentier Tycz, and their five daughters, who range in age from 1 to 9.
She said she kept tight control over her emotions during that visit, so as not to distract Tycz from what was to come. "He came across with such strength that I left there with a totally different attitude," Harnden said.
One day we will be leaving here to do our brand of business. . . . Be proud not sad when that day comes. I am just saying this so you are ready when it happens and realize what I want.
Two members of the Military Police delivered the news of the plane crash late Wednesday, stopping, in succession, at the houses of Tycz's father, his sister, Tracy, and then his mother. Earlier, his wife received a similar visit at her home. The men said that a plane had crashed and that there were seven survivors - but that Tycz was not among them - and that three crew members were missing.
"My God, how could you not have hope that "missing' meant they just didn't know where he was," Harnden said. After getting some sleep, she said, she turned on CNN to learn that the three missing were now three dead.
"So I knew," she said simply.
You know I love and will make great sacrifices to ensure our lifestyle is not threatened and I am prepared to do that.
Don't worry, I'm the best I can be and that's pretty damn good.
A memorial service will be held in Tonawanda, his mother said, but funeral plans were not yet complete. In memory of her son, she said, "I would like the public to support our soldiers, to support the effort and to be proud of those who serve."
Tycz's stepbrother, Kevin Jr., is getting married next week. Even before Wednesday's tragedy, he and his fiancee, Lisa, decided to honor Tycz through their wedding favors - small, American flags folded into palm-sized triangles, accompanied by written descriptions of what each fold signifies.
"It still will be a tribute to Peter, but a little different," his mother said.
By JANICE L. HABUDA
News Staff Reporter