STOW, OH, USA U.S. Marines CPL, L CO, 3D BN, 8TH MAR, (1-1 AD, I MEF FWD), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC AR RAMADI, IRAQ 08/02/2006
Twenty-five schoolchildren who kept in touch with a Marine in Iraq and welcomed him to their classroom attended his funeral service with their teacher. He told them about honor, courage and duty, Fishcreek Elementary School teacher Tracy Piatt told mourners on Monday at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church during a funeral Mass for Cpl. Joseph Anthony Tomci, 21, of Stow, Ohio.
Tomci was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Aug. 2, 2006. As we look into the faces of these boys and girls, you are looking at Joe Tomci, for he is in their hearts and they will carry him forever, Piatt told mourners. You, Joe Tomci, will be making the world a better place for many more lifetimes because of what you instilled in these children. Piatt and her students had befriended Tomci, exchanging letters with him while he was in Iraq. Once, while home on leave, Tomci visited the class of 8-year-olds. Piatt said Tomci shook hands with each student, bending down to their level to make eye contact and answering their questions.
Thousands of people lined the route of the funeral procession to the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in rural Rittman. Tom Willis stood alone along a rural stretch of road in Medina County, holding a small American flag and waiting for the procession to pass. We have to support our troops, he said.Joseph A. Tomci was a pen pal to a group of elementary students. About a year ago, after his first tour ended, he visited them at school to thank them. “That’s one of the best motivations that I got throughout the whole time I was in Iraq, getting presents, getting letters from you guys, and I would sit there and read them for hours,” he told the second-graders.
Tomci, 21, of Stow, Ohio, was killed Aug. 2 by a roadside bomb in Anbar province. A 2003 high school graduate, he was assigned to Camp Lejeune and was on his second tour. He loved what he was doing, said his father, John Tomci. As a father, that’s the highest thing that you can want for your children. Tomci’s girlfriend, Susan Walker, remembered when a 10-year-old Joe unsuccessfully tried to nurse an abandoned mouse back to health. Joseph was devastated when the mouse died.
Tomci was known for his ability to do spot-on impersonations and for memorizing every line of his favorite movies and reciting them to the dismay of others watching with him.
He also is survived by his mother and stepfather, Gayle and Philip Okonek.