Flag honors soldier’s service to the endSgt. 1st Class Matthew Pionk demonstrated early in life that he was a man of many talents.
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Pionk demonstrated early in life that he was a man of many talents.
From restoring a 1970 Chevy truck to like-new condition to leading a regiment into battle against terrorism, Pionk demonstrated a talent for leadership and determination.
Friday, a flag is raised in his honor at 9 a.m. at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, 305 Harborview Parkway.
Born in Duluth on Oct. 10, 1977, he grew up in Oliver and attended Superior High School where he excelled in auto mechanics and body work.
A 1996 graduate, Pionk took his talent to the Army in 1998, launching his military career at Fort Benning, Ga., with infantry and airborne training, He served three years at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska, and was deployed to the Philippines.
In 2001, Pionk was sent to Fort Lewis in Washington to the 24th Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division (Deuce Four). After extensive training with the new Stryker vehicles, the Deuce Four was deployed to Mosul, Iraq in 2004.
For the next year, the Deuce Four saw daily combat and fire fights. About 25 percent of the regiment’s 700 soldiers were lost to death or injury, but that didn’t stop the Deuce Four from killing or capturing more terrorists in a one-year period than any other regiment.
Pionk was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal with Valor for rescuing his severely injured platoon sergeant while under fire. He was subsequently appointed acting platoon sergeant as an E-6.
On his second tour of duty in 2007, Pionk was promoted to sergeant first class, and was assigned to the Recon Platoon, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, 1st Armored Division out of Vilseck, Germany. They went into Baghdad and cleaned up an area occupied by terrorists. Then they moved to the Diyala Province where Al Qaeda still had a stronghold.
It was during that deployment Sgt. 1st Class Pionk made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
He, along with five soldiers and a young Iraqi interpreter, were killed in action Jan. 9, 2008, in the little town of Sinsil while retreating from a house rigged with explosives by the enemy. Staff Sgt. Jon Dozier, Staff Sgt. Sean Gaul, Sgt. Zack McBride, Sgt. Chris Sanders, Cpl. Todd Davis and Roy, the interpreter, all gave their lives in the name of freedom.
Pionk was survived by his wife and three young children.
The flag raising event is free and open to the public. For more information about the “Flag of Remembrance Program,” contact John Vaski, 715-394-7693; or Scott Markle, 218-269-4675. You may also leave a message at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, 715-392-7151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or educator@