During Women’s History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Cari Gasiewicz, a linguist killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Cari Gasiewicz was born in Buffalo, New York, in June 1976. She graduated from Depew High School in 1994, then attended Canisius College in Buffalo and majored in elementary education. While at college, she joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
After three years of college, in 1997, Gasiewicz joined the Army. She went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for her basic training. She then began counterintelligence training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Working in military intelligence, she served two tours in Korea. In 2001, she attended the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, to study Arabic and graduated in 2003.
Gasiewicz served with B Company, 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, Fort Gordon, Georgia. In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she deployed to Iraq in January 2004 with her unit. Gasiewicz was a translator at Abu Ghrabib prison. Even though Gasiewicz was fluent in Arabic, she was not familiar with the local dialect, and on her lunch breaks offered to teach Iraqi contractors English if they would teach her their dialect in return. She impressed the people of Iraq with her fluency of the language and her knowledge of their culture.
January 2005 would have marked the end of Gasiewicz’s yearlong tour. On Dec. 4, 2004, she was traveling in a convoy beginning the long trip home. They were northeast of Baghdad headed for Kuwait when two improvised explosive devices hit Gasiewicz’s vehicle, killing her. She was 28 years old.
In a memorial service, Reverend Joseph H. Penkaul remembered Gasiewicz: “No matter where Cari was, she always found time to help others.”
When serving in Korea, Gasiewicz had given free English lessons to Korean children and adults and rescued a puppy that she brought home to New York. She once mentioned to her father’s co-workers that Iraqi children were in need of clothes and school supplies, and the co-workers sent Gasiewicz a dozen boxes full of items for the children. Shortly before her death, she was working with her congressman to provide Christmas dinner for her unit.
The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, where she studied Arabic, named a building Gasiewicz Hall. She was the first woman to receive this honor. At Fort Gordon, Gasiewicz’s unit’s headquarters building was also named after her. In her hometown, they named a street Cari Lane.
Gasiewicz rose to the rank of sergeant. She received a Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart and an Army Commendation Medal.
We honor her service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
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Writer: Michael Veronda
Editor: Rachel Falconer and Christine Myers
Fact checker: Ileana Rodrigues and Alexandria Davenport
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr