Press Release For Immediate Release: Monday, April 19, 2010
General Killed In Action Fighting the War on ALS
General Thomas Roy Mikolajcik
Mt. Pleasant, SC – On Saturday, April 17, 2010, Brigadier General Thomas Roy Mikolajcik, USAF (Ret.), age 63, husband of Carmen Heft Mikolajcik, was killed in action while battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, for six and one half years.
Brigadier General Mikolajcik had a distinguished career in the US Air Force, serving as Director of Transportation for the Air Force at the Pentagon and as Commander for the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, SC. After serving 27 years, he made Mt. Pleasant his permanent home and traveled extensively as an independent transportation logistics consultant until being 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 a 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 ALS Association South Carolina Chapter and the ALS clinic at the Medical University of South Carolina.
General Mikolajcik was born Thomas “Tom” Roy Mikolajcik on August 17, 1946 in Norwich , CT , the son of Teofila Wasniewski 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-one 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 operations in Europe, the Middle East, Central Africa and South America . He earned an MS in Management and Supervision from Central Michigan University and moved through the ranks of Air Force leadership as 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 the 435th Tactical Airlift Wing at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany and Wing Commander of the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, SC. His final assignment for the Air Force was Director of Transportation of USAF Headquarters, the Pentagon, 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 Force 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-17s, 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; 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 Air Force Base 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.
Tom Mikolajcik’s most cherished accomplishments are his loving family: 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, his daughter Christina Robertson and children’s father Brad and their children Giuliana, Angelina and Luca, and his son John Paul Mikolajcik and 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.
Funeral arrangements by McAlister-Smith Funeral Home, Mt. Pleasant Chapel, 1520 Rifle Range Road, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464; (843) 884-3833. Vigil service beginning at 5:30 PM, Friday, April 23. Visitation with family and friends 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM, The Liturgy of Christian Burial tentatively set at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 24 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston , SC. Interment at a later date at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO. Memorial contributions to the ALS Association, South Carolina Chapter, PO Box 280, Charleston, SC 29402, http://www.scalsa.org or Mepkin Abbey, 1098 Mepkin Abbey Road, Moncks Corner, SC 29461, (843) 761-8509. Arrangements by McAlister-Smith Funeral Home, Mt. Pleasant Chapel. Online condolences to the Mikolajcik family via http://www.mcalister-smith.com.