Liberty Lynn Lasky, the 1-year-old daughter of Cpl. Michael H. Lasky, crawls on the floor during a memorial service for her father Sunday at the National Guard armory building in Kenai. Cpl. Lasky and another Marine died Nov. 2 while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. About 600 people showed up to show their respects.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The soundtrack started before the slide show. Those in attendance knew all the words to the song “Proud to be an American” and sang it together.
When the first photo appeared on the screen, it showed a line of rifles stuck in the ground by their bayonets, with helmets hanging on the stocks and an empty pair of boots in front of each one.
With that, family, friends, former teammates and fellow servicemen and servicewomen remembered Cpl. Michael H. Lasky as a son, a husband, a father and a hero Sunday at the National Guard Armory in Kenai.
Lasky, 22, of Soldotna, was killed while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq on Nov. 2. Lasky was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve’s 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. He was serving his second tour in Iraq.
On Sunday, he was remembered as a man who loved his family, his country and a good joke.
Dave Carey, who knew Lasky as his wrestling coach and teacher at Skyview High School, borrowed from the language of wrestling in eulogizing him.
Lasky's wife, Jessica, is comforted by her mother, Jennifer Calhoun, after accepting a flag at the service.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Each individual wrestler’s responsibility, Carey said, is to make weight. If you can’t do that, nothing else matters.
“In so many ways, Mike not only made weight, but Mike was a person who was willing to carry the weight of others,” Carey said.
Carey spoke of Lasky’s intensity on the mat and his dedication to his teammates, but added that he had a mischievous side.
“I never knew for sure what Mike was thinking, I just knew he was thinking. He often saw the humorous side of any situation, and I think he was smiling because he was holding in a joke, and waiting for the right moment to crack up the whole room,” Carey said.
Carey described Lasky as a young man who sometimes had trouble following the rules, but noted the change he saw when he joined the Young Marines.
“When Mike put on the uniform, he put on all the tradition, honor and respect that embodies the U.S. Marine Corps.,” Carey said.
Members of the Lasky family console each other during Sunday's closing benediction.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Carey concluded his remarks with an image of Lasky he said he will carry in his heart, one of the young corporal leading a unit of Marines on a rescue mission at sunrise.
“Mike is wearing a big, white hat that’s what all American good guys wear and he is carrying his weight, and he is willing to carry the weight of those he might help,” Carey said.
Following Carey’s remarks, the floor was opened to anyone wishing to share a memory. Speaker after speaker talked about the way in which Laksy touched their lives, and of how he inspired them to become better people.
“He did everything he could for anybody he knew,” said one friend, who said he would run away to Mike’s house when things were tough in his own home. “... He kept me safe for a long time, and he died keeping all of us safe. I hope I can do something as great as Mike’s done in my life.”
“He became a great role model for me. He showed me I can be better than what I am,” said another speaker, who got to know Lasky through the Young Marines.
One speaker related the reason Lasky gave for naming his daughter Liberty: “That name stands for everything he was fighting for.”
Bobby Keith, Lasky’s drill instructor with the Young Marines, said he could take some credit for Lasky’s wrestling success because of all the pushups he made him do.
“Mike Lasky had a fire in his heart, and cockiness he deserved,” Keith said. Addressing Lasky’s family, Keith said he’s heard from people across the country who knew Lasky, and thanked them for the chance to know him.
“You gave me a son, a friend and a fellow Marine,” Keith said.
Lasky will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday.
About 600 people packed the Kenai Armory for Sunday’s service. The 200 chairs set up for the ceremony quickly filled, and people stood shoulder to shoulder, five and six rows deep, all the way around the room.
Jessica Lasky, Mike’s wife, said she was grateful for the community’s support.
“It’s been awesome. Everybody’s done so much for us. I don’t think anybody can imagine how much they’ve done, but they’ve been incredibly great to us,” she said.
Donn Lasky, Mike’s father, said the support was one of the great things about living on the Kenai Peninsula. He said his son learned from the second chance he got when he joined the Young Marines, and he was proud of the way in which Mike was able to inspire others.
“That was his philosophy let’s help other kids,” Donn said. “The fact that he’s been a positive influence, that speaks a lot of what he’s learned, and what this community has taught him.”
Lasky’s family wore matching T-shirts with photos of Mike printed on them, along with the words, “Our fallen hero.” Flower arrangements and pictures of Mike with his family and with his unit were spread out across the dais for the ceremony, along with a full stein of beer and an empty bottle of Crown Royal. Carey left a pair of Skyview yearbooks to be signed one for Jessica to remember her husband, the other for Liberty, now 1 year old, to get to know her dad.
A gun salute was performed by the VFW and American Legion honor guard, and an American flag was folded and presented to Jessica Lasky.
The ceremony concluded with Taps and a benediction by Carey.
Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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