Unit: 75th Ranger Regiment, 3rd Battalion
Home Town: Crucible, PA
Died On: 10/03/1993
Cpl. Richard W. Kowalewski Jr. didn't have an easy road, but he had plans to make his life better.
He bounced among several high schools as his parents moved, then broke up. He lived with his mother in Texas, with his father in Alabama, then with his grandparents in Pennsylvania. But he kept his sights on his future. Despite the school changes, he stayed enrolled in Junior ROTC. An avid chess player, he knew to plan his next several moves: After high school, he was going to join the Army, earn some money for college, get a degree in electrical engineering, and marry his girlfriend.
"He kind of knew we didn't have the finances to help him through college," says Richard Kowalewski Sr. "It was just something he had all lined up, even before he graduated from high school, that he was going to ... go to the service, and then he could get his schooling."
The younger Kowalewski completed basic training in June 1992. He was assigned to the 3d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, which deployed to Somalia in August 1993. Thoughts of his future shifted to focusing on a very tense present. "War is very sad and kills everyone in some way," he wrote to Donna Yarish, his fiancee, one week before his death at age 20 in the October 3-4 firefight.
He had been planning to come home Thanksgiving, pick up his fiancee in Pennsylvania and introduce her to his family. By the time Thanksgiving arrived, the elder Kowalewski had attended his son's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., and a memorial service for the slain Rangers at Fort Benning, Ga.
Richard Kowalewski Jr. was among the Rangers killed while their convoy, under heavy fire, snaked through Mogadishu side streets, trying to rescue U.S. soldiers in a downed helicopter. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor.
Richard Kowalewski Sr. doesn't feel that sacrifice was repaid. He says for his son's funeral, the Army offered plane tickets and hotel rooms--for him and for his ex-wife. The senior Kowalewski was unable to use the plane ticket because he wanted the entire family to go together. He, his second wife, another son living with them and the grandparents who saw that Richard Jr. completed high school, paid their own way to Washington, then shared a single hotel room, the elder Kowalewski says. "They wanted to do for the immediate family--the mother and the father--and that was it," he says. But Army officials say they are limited by law in paying for travel expenses to funerals. The service can pay for travel for a spouse and children, and for parents only if the soldier was not married or childless. "It wasn't that the Army didn't want to help [the Kowalewskis]; it couldn't," says Harry Campbell, an Army memorial affairs official. But when the family attended a memorial service at Fort Benning, Ga., the Rangers provided forms for families to list travel expenses for reimbursement. "When they send us a check, we'll just cash it and send another check back as a donation to the Rangers," Richard Kowalewski Sr. says, "... The government, I felt, should have paid for it."