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Brigadier General Thomas Roy Mikolajcik USAF (Ret.), age 63, husband of Carmen Heft Mikolajcik was Killed in Action April 17, 2010 after battling ALS for six and one-half years.
Brigadier General Mikolajcik had a distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force including serving as Director of Transportation for the Air Force at The Pentagon and as Commander of the 437th Airlift Wing at the Charleston AFB, SC. After serving 27 years, he made Mt. Pleasant his permanent home and traveled extensively as an independent travel and logistics consultant until he was diagnosed with ALS in 2003. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease robs one of the use of muscles, eventually leading to paralysis and death. Following his diagnosis, General Mikolajcik became a tireless advocate for victims of the disease, placing special emphasis on veterans as they show a 60% greater risk of contracting the disease. His sustained campaign led him to testify before the Congressional House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in 2007, and he was instrumental in the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs decision to grant service-connected disability benefits to all veterans with ALS. He was a strong advocate for establishing an ALS National Registry, necessary for research and information sharing and was instrumental in establishing the South Carolina ALS foundation and ALS clinic at the Medical University of South Carolina. Recently, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, MDA, featured General Mikolajcik in its national campaign to promote ALS awareness.
General Mikolajcik was born Thomas “Tom” Roy Mikolajcik on August 17, 1946 in Norwich, CT , the son of Teofila Wasbiewski Mikolajcik and the late Roy Mikolajcik. Following his 1964 graduation from Norwich Free Academy and a year at the University of Connecticut, Tom received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. He graduated in 1969 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. Three days later, he married his beloved wife of forty years, Mary Carmen Heft of Denver, CO. He completed pilot training in 1970 eventually becoming a command pilot with over 4,000 hours in C-141, C-9, C-130 and C-17 aircraft directing international tactical and strategic airlift operations in Europe, the Middle East, Central Africa and South America. Tom earned a MS in Management and Supervision from Central Michigan University and moved through the ranks of Air Force leadership as a C-141 Squadron Commander, McChord AFB, Tacoma, WA; Deputy Chief of Exercises 5th Allied Tactical Air Force, Vicenza, Italy; Vice Wing Commander and Wing Commander of 435th in Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany; and the Wing Commander of the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston, AFB, SC. His final assignment for the Air Force was Director of Transportation of USAF Headquarters, The Pentagon in Washington, DC where he coordinated Air Force transportation resources and ensured national security and emergency humanitarian mission requirements were met.
General Mikolajcik served in Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989 and the reunification of Germany in 1990. During his command, Rhein-Main Air Base was known as the “Gateway to Europe” and played a critical role in the execution of the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein in 1991. He was the US Air Force Component Commander in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope where he was responsible for aircraft from seven nations that delivered humanitarian relief to suffering Somalis.
Brigadier General Mikolajcik helped activate the first squadron of C-17’s, the Air Force’s newest generation airlifter, while in command at Charleston Air Force Base. The first operational C-17 was delivered in June, 1993. While stationed at the Pentagon thirteen years earlier, then Major Mikolajcik served on the C-X task force that was commissioned to determine the quantitative and qualitative requirements for the new airlifter.
His many awards, decorations and achievements include: the Order of the Palmetto in 1994, the highest award given by the State of South Carolina; the Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award, June 2007; Town of Mt. Pleasant Order of the Gavel for Distinguished Service, June 2008; Rose Arts Festival Favorite Son, Norwich, CT, 1993; being knighted by the St. Slanislaus Society; and both the Mikolajcik Engineering Laboratory at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Atlantic and the Brigadier General Thomas R. Mikolajcik Child Care Center, Charleston AFB were dedicated in his name. . His many military honors include: the Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement medal; Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Combat Readiness Medal. National Defense Service Medal with service star, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
General Mikolajcik cherished his loving family most: his wife Carmen; his mother Teofila Mikolajcik of Norwich, CT; his sister Dorothy Mikolajcik of Southington, CT; his daughter Julia Vanderpool and husband Dr. Anthony and their children Victoria, Alexandria, Sophia and Francesca, "Ella"; his daughter Christina Robertson, her children Giuliana, Angelina, and Luca and their father Brad; and his son John Paul Mikolajcik and his fiancé Anna Kochowska, all of Mt. Pleasant.
He will also be deeply missed by numerous extended family members, friends, and colleagues from around the world.
Visitation with family and friends will be Friday, April 23, 2010 at McAlister-Smith Funeral Home, 1520 Rifle Range Road, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464; (843) 884-3833 at the following times: 10:00AM – 12NOON; 1:00PM – 3:00PM; and 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM, Vigil beginning at 5:30 PM. The Liturgy of Christian Burial will be 10 AM Saturday, April 24, 2010 at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston, SC followed by the rendering of Military Honors by the United States Air Force. Interment at a later date at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO. Memorial contributions to The ALS Association, South Carolina Chapter,