SUPERIOR, WI, USA U.S. Army SFC, HHT, 3D SQUADRON, 2D CAVALRY, VILSECK, GERMANY SINSIL, IRAQ 01/09/2008
A family in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin was grieving the news Friday that a 30-year-old Wisconsin native and “wonderful humanitarian” who recently moved to Minnesota’s Iron Range has died in Iraq.
Sergeant First Class Matthew Pionk had been in the Army for nine years and began his second tour of duty in Iraq just five months ago, said his father, Duane Pionk.
“Matthew was a great American soldier,” Duane Pionk said Thursday, adding that his son always helped the downtrodden and others in need. “He was just a wonderful humanitarian in that way.
“The people in life that always had problems – he was there to help them.”
On Friday, the Department of Defense still had not released details of Pionk’s death, but his father said he was told by military officials on Wednesday that Matthew Pionk died when terrorists detonated a bomb in a building.
“He was a platoon sergeant. He led a squad of five people into a building to clear a building, and the terrorists, they had planted a bomb in there and they remotely detonated it after he was in there,” said Duane Pionk, of Superior, Wis.
Pionk is a native of Oliver, Wis., a small town near Superior, and graduated from high school in Superior in 1996. He had recently moved to Eveleth, on Minnesota’s Iron Range, Duane Pionk said. He was married and leaves behind three children, ages 8, 6 and 3.
He earned a Bronze Star during his first tour of duty for helping a fellow soldier who was injured, Duane Pionk said.
“We’re very proud of him,” Pionk said. “He was a wonderful father. He was a wonderful son. And he was a wonderful soldier.”
The Army said Friday Pionk was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division out of Vilseck, Germany.
Pionk and his wife Melanie were married in 1998. Pionk enlisted with the military on April 1, 1998, according to Melanie. “His whole life was the military,” she said.
Matthew and Melanie have three children. “He was a great dad and a great solider,” Melanie Pionk said. “That’s about all I can tell you.”