Frederick E. Pokorney, Jr.—November 2006 Shipment Honoree
Marine 1st Lt. Frederick E. Pokorney, 31, of Tonopah, Nev.; assigned to the Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed in action near Nasiriyah, Iraq on March 23, 2003.
“Gentle giant” of a Marine mournedSource: Arlington National Cemetary Website
CAMP LEJEUNE — When Chelle Pokorney saw her husband, Second Lieutenant Frederick E. Pokorney, off to Kuwait, something told her she wouldn’t see him again. “When he left, I knew he wasn’t coming home,” she said Wednesday at Camp Lejeune. “He didn’t have to tell me. I had a feeling.”
Pokorney died Sunday in battle near An Nasiriyah with eight other Lejeune Marines. He was a field artillery leader and was likely a forward observer with the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment.
Chelle, a part-time nurse at Onslow Memorial Hospital, spoke to reporters Wednesday. It was her first public comment since she found out her husband was killed by Iraqi forces during an ambush.
Her voice quaking at times, she called her husband a “gentle giant” and said he loved his family, the Marine Corps and the Oakland Raiders. She said he was an honorable man, who lived up to the Marine Corps’ standards of “honor, courage and commitment.”
She couldn’t explain why she knew she would never see her husband again when his bus pulled away for the first part of the journey to his deployment to the Persian Gulf and war with Iraq. “I think it was the love that we had,” she said.
But she couldn’t ask him not to go. “What can I do?” she asked. “He was a Marine. He did what he loved.”
The news has been hard on their 2-year-old daughter, Taylor Rochelle, “his spitting image,” she said. “She is hurting now,” she said. “My daughter is going to suffer not having a father, but she had him for a very short time.”
Frederick Pokorney is going to get a full military funeral in Arlington National Cemetery, with all the honors befitting a hero, she said.
She said it was important to support the families of Marines deployed in Iraq now. Most of them receive little contact while their husbands are deployed in conflict. “The wives are brave,” she said. “We need to support them as a nation.”
Chelle last spoke with her husband on March 4. It wasn’t their anniversary, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to call her later, and he wanted her to know how much he loved her, she said. Their seventh wedding anniversary would have been Saturday. “That call was a blessing,” she said.
She said it was also important to remember the Marines who are still in Iraq. “There are many Marines that are still over there,” she said. “My husband led them until it was his time.”
In memory of Nevada’s first known casualty in the war with IraqSource: Arlington National Cemetery Website
TONOPAH, NEVADA — Fred Pokorney became a star by shooting hoops on the high school basketball court, and Friday the town gathered in that same gym to share stories, shed tears, and offer hugs in memory of Nevada’s first known casualty in the war with Iraq.
“Fred was a hero,” Wade Lieseke, who served as a surrogate father for Pokorney since his high school days, said after the hour-long memorial service. “He died a hero, and he’ll always be a hero to all of us. We’ll miss him for the rest of our lives.”
First Lieutenant. Frederick E. Pokorney Jr. was killed Sunday outside An Nasiriyah when Iraqi soldiers appeared to surrender but then opened fire. Eight other Marines, also from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina., died in the attack.
He leaves behind his wife, Chelle, and their 2-year-old daughter, Taylor. He is scheduled to be buried April 14 at Arlington National Cemetery.
“Tonopah High School was an important part of his life,” Principal Barbara Floto told about 350 children, students, veterans and residents lining the bleachers, many carrying small U.S. flags. “He gave and took valuable memories. Those of us who knew Fred will treasure his very being,” she added. “We pay tribute to a young man who will always be a part of us.” Floto then signaled student body president Beth Gaydon to present the Lieseke family with 31 red roses for each of Pokorney’s 31 years.
Pokorney grew up in the Bay Area with his father, Fred Pokorney, but when he was 16, he moved to Tonopah to live with an aunt. When she died, the young man joined the Lieseke family, although he was never legally adopted. “I didn’t have to — he was just our boy,” Lieseke said.
He excelled in sports — his 6-foot 7-inch, 220-pound muscular physique landed him top spots on the varsity football and basketball teams. And he endeared himself to many in this isolated mining-military town of 3,500 people in the eastern Nevada desert. Many cried during the service and stood with arms around each other afterward. “It’s a very small community, so it hits us hard,” local resident June Downs said after the ceremony.
“He was a good guy, a caring guy, considerate of others,” added his former classmate J.D. Gray. “I saw him at our high school reunion and he was excited about being in the service. He was doing what he wanted to do.”
The Rev. Kenneth Curtis offered some comfort by reading from Ecclesiastes — a passage entitled “a time for everything.” “Everything that happens, happens at a time of God’s choosing,” he said. “A time to be born and a time to die. A time to kill and a time to heal…”
It seemed the most fitting thing to say when you’re looking for answers and there are none, he said. “It’s hell when you have to bury your kids,” he said after the service.
The school’s choir then sang “Tears in Heaven,” a song Eric Clapton wrote when his young son died in an accident. As Lieseke wept throughout the song, his daughter, Christina Uribe, rested her head on her father’s shoulder. Her dad stroked her hair.
“Words can’t express what they’ve endured in the last week,” Christina’s husband, Staff Sergeant Joe Uribe, said after the gathering.
Pokorney, who went to the Middle East as a Second lieutenant, was promoted posthumously effective the date of his death, the Pentagon told the Associated Press. He had been selected for a promotion, but had not received official word before his death.
Fred Pokorney’s uncle, Gary Pokorney of Custer, North Dakota, said he has been in contact with the Marine’s biological father, who now lives in the Midwest. He is saddened by his son’s death, the uncle said, referring to the junior Fred Pokorney by a family nickname: Benny.
“He’s OK,” Gary Pokorney said Friday in a telephone interview. “He regrets not being able to see him in recent years. He’s disturbed that he died, but believes he died for a good cause,” the uncle added.
14 April 2003:
Shortly after Lieutenant Frederick Pokorney was buried Monday at Arlington National Cemetery, his 2 1/2-year-old daughter clutched the tightly folded flag that had just covered the dead Marine’s casket. “Where’s daddy?” Taylor asked her mother, Carolyn Rochelle Pokorney, as the two knelt beside the casket for a final goodbye.
In a funeral service under a cloudless sky, Pokorney became the first Marine from Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at the cemetery in Arlington, Virginia—hallowed ground for the nation’s war dead. The 1989 Tonopah High School graduate was the first soldier from Nevada to die in the war on Iraq.
Pokorney, who was buried with full military honors, was killed in combat at Nasiriyah last month. Marine Lance Corporal Donald John Cline, 21, of Sparks was confirmed dead this weekend from wounds he received in the same battle.
During a Catholic Mass before the graveside ceremony, family friend Larry Mullins said the tall 31-year-old Pokorney was a “gentle giant” with a “real sense of compassion.”
“He was silent and strong,” Mullins said. “He was confident. He made you feel safe and secure.” Mullins said Pokorney shouldn’t be forgotten. His bravery had made everyone proud.
“All in all it’s quite a life to celebrate,” Mullins said. “We won’t see a flag … without thinking of the sacrifice he made.” Well done, Marine. Semper Fi.”
About 150 mourners gathered to remember Pokorney, including a number of Marines. Among others paying tribute was the man Pokorney considered his adoptive father, former Nye County Sheriff Wade Lieseke. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev. also attended.
Six horses drew the caisson carrying the flag-draped casket to Section 60, grave No. 7861 of the cemetery. A 25-piece Marine band and full honor guard marched in step behind. A seven-man rifle team fired a traditional three-round volley and a bugler played Taps.
Marine Brigadier General Maston Robeson presented the folded flag to Pokorney’s wife.
Pokorney is survived by his wife and daughter, who live in Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Camp Lejeune, where Pokorney was stationed. He had been assigned to the Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
As a teenager, Pokorney lived in Tonopah, Nevada, a small mining town midway between Las Vegas and Reno. He lived with Lieseke during part of his high school years after his mother died and his father left town to find work. Lieseke considered Pokorney a son. One of the last letters Pokorney wrote arrived at Lieseke’s home three days after the Marine died March 23.
Pokorney was a standout high school athlete in Tonopah, starring in basketball and football, and earning townspeople’s respect for his work ethic and self-reliance. Several hundred turned out to remember him last month at a memorial service.
Pokorney graduated from Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, before beginning his military service.
In an interview published Monday in the Daily News of Jacksonville, North Carolina, Pokorney’s widow said he told her before he left for the war, “No matter what, you have to keep on going and be Taylor’s best friend.”
Chelle Pokorney, 32, told the paper that she knew even as she embraced her husband a final time that she would have to make good on that promise.
She said the couple visited Arlington National Cemetery during a 2001 Memorial Day trip to Washington, D.C. Her grandfather, an Air Force colonel, and her great-uncle, an Air Force general, are both buried at Arlington, and she recalled Fred Pokorney saying during that trip, “I want to be buried here. It would be an honor.”
Frederick E. Pokorney, Jr.Source: Honor the Fallen—Associated Press (orginal link – www.militarycity.com)
Frederick Pokorney Jr. started his career as an enlisted man. He ended it as an officer.
At 6-foot-6, Pokorney played center on a Tonopah, Nev., High School basketball team that went 14-9 and was runner-up for the state championship in 1989. “He was a nice looking, tall, muscular kid,” said Joann Cody, assistant sheriff in Nye County, Nev.
Pokorney had taken care of himself for many years. His mother left when he was 1½, said his father, Fred Pokorney, Sr., who lives in Branson, Mo. The elder Pokorney had not spoken to his son in more than five years. “It’s sad, but I don’t know much about his life,” his father said. “He had his own life and didn’t want to have much to do with me.”
Pokorney moved to Nevada when his father, a construction worker, got a temporary job at a missile test range near Tonopah. After his father left, his son stayed, living with the local sheriff and his basketball coach. “He was my son,” former sheriff Wade Lieseke said.
From there, Pokorney made his own way in life. People who knew him say he a very good person — independent, polite, friendly. “He was a good student, very diligent,” said Art Johnson, who taught him auto mechanics for two years.
He enlisted in the Marines and enrolled in the ROTC program at Oregon State University in 1997 to become an officer, a university spokesman said. He majored in anthropology and graduated in 2001.
He is survived by his wife, Rochelle, a young daughter, a brother and a sister.
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Frederick during the month of November 2006 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Frederick’s family and friends today and in the years to come.