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Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski

Died May 26, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom


28, of Ottumwa, Iowa, assigned to the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; died May 26 in Shorabak district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Tech. Sgt. Kristoffer M. Solesbee was also killed.



Iowa airman killed in Afghanistan

By Daniel P. Finney

The Des Moines Register

An Ottumwa native was killed in Afghanistan Thursday while serving in the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Department of Defence announced Friday night.

Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski, 28, died when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

A second airman, Tech Sgt. Kristoffer M. Solebee, 32, of Citrus Heights, Calif, also died in the attack, officials said.

The incident occurred in the Shorabak district of Kandahar province.

Hamski graduated from Ottumwa High School in 2001. He briefly attended Iowa State University before joining the Air Force, said his grandfather, Ray Hamski, 83, of Duluth, Minn.

“He really found himself in the Air Force — he just blossomed into a super young man,” Ray Hamski said. “He was kind of a free spirit in high school and he just wasn’t a college man. But he really shaped up in the Air Force. It’s a devastating loss.”

Hamski was assigned to the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, at the time of his death.

He previously served at Elgin Air Force Base, Cannon Air Force Base and Kusan Air Base. Hamski worked as an explosives and demolitions engineer and trained others how to detect and deactivate bombs.

“You can be thankful for all the lives he saved,” said Jennifer Hensley, Hamski’s sister. “We just sorry he was gone so soon.”

Hamski was the 82nd person with ties to Iowa to have died in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere from combat, illness or accident since the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Hamski is survived by his wife, Air Force Staff Sgt. Maria Christina Hamski, Spangdahlem, Germany; mother, Mary Ellen Winston, a sixth-grade teacher in Ottumwa; sisters Jennifer Hensley of Shakopee, Minn., and Nicole Friedman of Blakesburg; and his brother Thomas Hamski of Nevada.

Hamski graduated from Ottumwa High School in 2001 and briefly attended Iowa State University before joining the Air Force.

He is survived by his wife, Air Force Staff Sgt. Maria Christina Hamski, his mother, two sisters and a brother.



Hundreds turn out for funeral

The Associated Press

OTTUMWA, Iowa — Hundreds of people lined the streets outside an Ottumwa church on June 4 to show their support for an airman killed last month in Afghanistan.

The mourners and well-wishers — many of them holding American flags — crowded the intersection where St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church is located.

Inside, family members of Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski attended a funeral Mass for the 28-year-old Ottumwa man, The Ottumwa Courier reported.

Hamski graduated from Ottumwa High School in 2001 and briefly attended Iowa State University before joining the Air Force.

“Joe was a good kid in school,” said Debbie Carnahan Coleman, who stood between the church and City Hall, holding a flag. “He never got into any trouble.”

Coleman, a teacher’s aide back then, said Hamski was always respectful in how he dealt with others and deserves that same respect. Plus, she said as an airman he “made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Hamski was killed May 26 when enemy forces attacked and a bomb exploded. The attack happened in the Shorabak district of Kandahar province. Tech. Sgt. Kristoffer Solesbee of Citrus Heights, Calif., also was killed.

The crowd began lining the streets nearly two hours before Hamski’s funeral. After the service ended, the well-wishers quietly watched the funeral procession. Some saluted the hearse carrying Hamski’s remains as it drove past them en route to Ottumwa Cemetery, where he was to be buried.

“We’re here to say ‘Thank you,’ to show the family we appreciate their sacrifice, and the sacrifice [made] by their loved one,” said another supporter, Janice Bailey.

Hamski is survived by his wife, Air Force Staff Sgt. Maria Christina Hamski, his mother, two sisters and a brother.

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