Cpl. Michael H. Lasky
Courtesy of the Alaska Peninsula Clarion
The Kenai Peninsula suffered the loss of one of its own Thursday when Corporal Michael H. Lasky, 22, of Soldotna, was killed in Iraq.
The Department of Defense issued a statement Saturday that Lasky and Lance Corporal Luke B. Holler, 21, of Bulverde, Texas, died while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province. No additional details were released.
Lasky was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. He was married to Jessica Lasky, also of Soldotna. The couple have a baby girl, Liberty Lynn, who just celebrated her first birthday in October.
Lasky finished his first seven-month tour of duty in Iraq last year and came home that October, when he met newborn Liberty. He volunteered to be redeployed for his current tour in March and had been in Iraq since then.
"He couldn't wait to get there. He believed in everything he did over there," said his mother, Carol Lasky, of Soldotna.
"His mom wasn't thrilled but I have to support my son's decision and I am very proud of what he did. I'm behind him 100 percent, but that doesn't mean I didn't worry on a daily basis," she said.
Lasky was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.
The last call she got from Mike was Wednesday. He wasn't allowed to talk about his mission, but Carol knew it was dangerous.
"He said 'Mom, I love you, because we'd had a scare in the beginning of the week and I just wanted you to know I'm OK,'" she said.
"He knew his chance of being killed over there was very possible, but he felt because he was doing something for his country, he would die for his country," Carol said.
The military had been a part of Mike's life since 1999, when a chapter of the Young Marines formed on the Kenai Peninsula and the teenager jumped at the chance to join.
Carol Lasky went with her son to the first meeting and ended up getting involved herself , becoming the commanding officer for the Alaska Young Marines in order to support Mike's interest.
"My son wanted to be a Marine," she said.
"The day 9/11 hit he went and signed on the dotted line."
Mike became an active member in the Young Marines in 1999 and later became a training officer. Even after starting what he planned to be a lifelong career in the Marine Corps in 2002, he stayed involved with the Young Marines. Carol said teaching the Young Marine participants to respect themselves and have self-esteem was an important mission for her son, and he was proud of what they accomplished.
"He was so dedicated to these kids," she said. "The day before he died he called the Young Marine headquarters in D.C. to make sure they knew how much our Young Marines support those troops overseas."
Nick Whitaker, a Young Marine from Nikiski, can attest to Mike's dedication, both to the Young Marines and the adult version. He credits Mike and Carol with starting the area's program. Since he's been so involved since day one, Mike's loss will be felt among the Young Marines, but Whitaker tried to put Mike's death in perspective.
"He was doing what he loved, and that makes it easier to handle," he said.
Carol said Mike's dedication extended beyond the military.
"He's very outgoing - sports, wrestling, very community oriented. He worked with the veterans. There just isn't probably anybody on the peninsula who doesn't know Mike, which I found out by getting the phone calls (from the community after news of his death)."
Mike grew up on the peninsula, attending Sterling Elementary, Soldotna Middle, Skyview High and Kenai Alternative High schools.
He enjoyed much of what Alaska has to offer.
"He liked to hunt, fish, do stupid stuff, you know," Carol said.
Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey remembers Lasky from his days teaching and coaching wrestling at Skyview.
"Mike was very well liked by all of the students. He was a good strong wrestler," Carey said.
In 2001, Lasky took fifth at 125 pounds to help Skyview win the state fall wrestling championship.
"We'll just miss him. He was a good, hard worker," said Skyview wrestling coach Neldon Gardner, who taught Mike in junior high. "It's always a tragedy when you hear about a young kid that's lost his life, any way that that happens. We'll miss Mike. It was good to work with him is all I can say. I had a good time working with him and he worked real hard and came through when we needed him."
In 2002 Mike graduated from Kenai Alternative. Carey stayed in touch with the Laskys through their involvement with the Young Marines and remembers Mike showing off his new daughter when he was home on leave last October.
"By far his number one priority has been his family and he was just extremely proud to be a member of the Marine Corps," Carey said.
"I know he cared very much for his buddies and this obviously is a very terrible tragedy for his family and the community grieves and I also know he would want to be sure that we treat his buddies in the Marine Corps and everyone serving in the military with respect," Carey said.
Even in death, his Alaska roots and dedication to the military is evident.
Carol said the family plans to have a memorial service on the peninsula soon, but Mike's wishes were to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
"That is what he wanted, to be buried in Arlington. Not in a hearse, in a pickup truck full of mud with big tires on it," Carol said.
Cpl. Lasky is survived by his wife, Jessica, and daughter, Liberty Lynn Lasky; parents, Carol and Donn Lasky; sister and brother-in-law, Cori and Jon Lund, and their children, Alexis and Austin; and brother, Donnie Lasky and his wife, Jen, and their daughters Jessica, Samantha and Andrea.
"What Mike wants is no one to mourn over him, but to party for him," Carol said. "He wants it to be a celebration, not a mourning. Those that knew him will say, 'Yep, that's Mike.'"
Alaska Marine killed in Iraq was on second tour
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An Alaska Marine killed last week in Iraq was on his second tour of duty.
Corporal Michael Lasky died Thursday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province. The military announced his death Saturday.
The 22-year-old Sterling resident leaves behind a wife, Jessica, and 1-year-old daughter, Liberty Lynn.
His parents, Donn and Carol Lasky, were informed of their son's death about 1 a.m. Friday when a military team visited their Soldotna home.
Donn Lasky told the Anchorage Daily News that they were grief-stricken when they looked outside and, at first, were reluctant to open the door. Donn said his wife broke down, repeating, "No, no, go away."
"Last thing we wanted to see was a Marine standing there in front of our house," Donn said.
They asked the Marines to return at 7 a.m. The men didn't deliver the news about Michael on that first visit, the family said. "They didnt have to. We knew," Donn said.
The Lasky family moved to Alaska in the late 1970s when Donn Lasky was in the Navy then and was twice stationed at the now-defunct Adak naval base.
Michael Lasky attended elementary school there before his family relocated to the Kenai Peninsula.
Lasky first became involved with the Marines in junior high when he enrolled in the service's youth program. Later, after graduating from Skyview High School, he helped run the youth program.
He joined the Marines about four years ago, and served a seven-month tour in Iraq in 2005. He returned home just days after the birth of his daughter.
His high school friend, Travis Endsley, said it was obvious Lasky had a passion for being a Marine.
"He definitely loved what he did and believed in it," Endsley told the Daily News.
"He gave 110 percent," he said.
Lasky volunteered to return to Iraq this year, his father said, serving in the war zone for about two months before being killed.
Donn Lasky said his son made him very proud, and added he was a great communicator.
"He was the greatest kid in the world as far as bubbly. He could sit there and talk your pants off," he said.
According to his wishes, Michael Lasky will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The family expects to hold a memorial service in Soldotna in the coming weeks.
He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division at Elmendorf Air Force Base.
Lasky was the third member of Alaska's single, small Marine unit to die in Iraq since the war began in 2003. The other men killed were from Salcha and Anchorage.