Cpl Nicholas Lee Ziolkowski
  • 22 years old
  • Date of birth: Apr 21, 1982
  • Date of passing: Nov 14, 2004
Let the memory of Nicholas be with us forever

Nick, who was a sniper, was killed by the sniper he was trying to kill, according to his Captain. He had taken his helmet off to see better, Nick's mother  was told. But she was also told it probably wouldn't have mattered if he had had the helmet on.

Corporal Ziolkowski, 22, of Towson, Maryland, was assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Ziolkowski was immortalized in pictures and words in a New York Times report by Dexter Filkins, who was embedded with the Marines in Falluja. 

More than once, death crept up and snatched a member of Bravo Company and quietly slipped away. Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski, nicknamed Ski, was a Bravo Company sniper. For hours at a stretch, Corporal Ziolkowski would sit on a rooftop, looking through the scope on his bolt-action M-40 rifle, waiting for guerrillas to step into his sights. The scope was big and wide, and Corporal Ziolkowski often took off his helmet to get a better look.

Tall, good-looking and gregarious, Corporal Ziolkowski was one of Bravo Company’s most popular soldiers. Unlike most snipers, who learned to shoot growing up in the countryside, Corporal Ziolkowski grew up near Baltimore, unfamiliar with guns. Though Baltimore boasts no beach front, Corporal Ziolkowski’s passion was surfing; at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Bravo Company’s base, he would often organize his entire day around the tides.

“All I need now is a beach with some waves,” Corporal Ziolkowski said, during a break from his sniper duties at Falluja’s Grand Mosque, where he killed three men in a single day. During that same break, Corporal Ziolkowski foretold his own death. The snipers, he said, were now among the most hunted of American soldiers.

In the first battle for Falluja, in April, American snipers had been especially lethal, Corporal Ziolkowski said, and intelligence officers had warned him that this time, the snipers would be targets.

“They are trying to take us out,” Corporal Ziolkowski said.

The bullet knocked Corporal Ziolkowski backward and onto the roof. He had been sitting there on the outskirts of the Shuhada neighborhood, an area controlled by insurgents, peering through his wide scope. He had taken his helmet off to get a better view. The bullet hit him in the head.

Young Men, Heavy Burdens

~by Dexter Filkins, New York Times, November 21, 2004

Family and friends remembered Ziolkowski as an intensely patriotic young man, one who began planning for his military service in ninth grade and left for active duty in the Marines the morning after high-school graduation. They said he firmly believed he could help make the world a better place.

"He loved his country more than any person I know that age," said Baltimore City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who taught Ziolkowski and his older brother Peter U.S. history at Boys' Latin. "I don't think I could be any prouder of Nick."

In a written statement, Miller described her son as "charismatic, caring and sensitive, making friends wherever he went." Ziolkowski's father, Andrew, said in the statement that his Captain "wanted 10 more guys like Nick."

Ziolkowski ran several miles every day and worked out constantly to get in the best shape possible for military service, his family said.

At 17, he completed the Navy Seal Odyssey program, the 24-hour version of the Navy's "Hell Week," according to the family's statement. He finished in the top 10 among several hundred participants and was the youngest finisher.

Ziolkowski and his close friend, fellow Marine Mark Engel, dreamed of coming home safely together and opening a surf shop in Cancun, according to the family. That dream was shattered in July when Engel, a Colorado resident, died of wounds received in Iraq's Anbar province.

Ziolkowski was scheduled to return home in February, and he planned to attend college at Towson University, the family said.


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