Loss of Marine Leads to Helping Others

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KEWAUNEE COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) – Memorial Day is a federal holiday, remembering and honoring the people who died while serving in our country’s armed forces.

Local 5’s Cole Higgins explains how one local family is turning the tragedy of losing their marine, into a way to help others.

“9/11 had already occurred, and basically he told his mother that he did not want to have any regrets, and so he joined the Marine Corps,” says Annie Zelewske of her nephew Marine Lance Cpl. Dean Opicka.

Coming from a family with history in the armed forces, while they were worried, the family of Opicka, was not surprised when he joined the Marine Corps in 2006.

“Anyone who knew him, knew that that’s exactly the kind of young man that he was,” says Zelewske.

Opicka was deployed to Iraq in January of 2008, and killed that April in a roadside bombing.

Standing in the garden dedicated to Opicka, his Aunt says Memorial Day is a holiday with significant meaning.

“You just internalize it differently, and it’s got a whole new meaning. Um, it’s not just a day that you visit gravestones and you know, and make sure all the flowers are pretty, um, it’s the day to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” explains Zelewske.

Opicka’s family has honored him, with a memorial organization in his name that raises money for local scholarships and hardship funds.

This week marks the organization’s 6th Annual Softball Tournament and Motorcycle Ride.

“It’s all about remembering Dean, remembering other service people,um, and like I said, we knew we needed to do something to keep his memory alive,” says Zelewske.

Before Opicka became a marine, he taught at an underprivileged school in Milwaukee, where he started and coached the schools basketball team.

Opicka’s aunt says because Dean gave so much during his short life, it was only right to honor him by continuing to give back.

“Dean gave freely to everyone,” says Zelewske.

The softball tournament kicks off on Thursday with a veteran ceremony.

While the teams are full, there will still be lots of food, raffles and prizes to win.

For more information about the four day event in honor of Marine Lance Cpl. Dean Opicka, click HERE.

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