Stanley James Lapinski
Corporal, United States Army
June 14, 2005
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs - (703) 692-2000 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Corporal Stanley J. Lapinski, 35, of Las Vegas, Nevada, died June 11, 2005, in Baghdad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle. Lapinski was assigned to the Army's 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia.
For further information related to this release,
contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.
Army Corporal Stanley J. Lapinski, 35, was assigned to the Army's 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He was killed when an improvised explosive detonated near the vehicle he was riding in, according to military officials.
Lapinski was on his first tour in Iraq and had been there for four months when he was killed, his 61-year-old mother, Gaynell Lapinski, said.
Gaynell Lapinski, who lives in Beverly Hills, Florida, said she received reports that several soldiers who were with Lapinski in the Humvee were also reportedly wounded in the blast.
"He must have taken the full impact (of the blast) because he died instantly," she said she was told by the military.
Gaynell Lapinski said her son had enlisted in the Army at the age of 34 -- relatively late in life. The terrorist attacks in 2001 and the U.S. efforts to combat terrorism in the wake of the those attacks inspired him to enlist, she said.
She recalled that her son would often say, "We can't let people come and do this" after the attacks, and even though she thought he was just gripped by the patriotic fervor that had swept over America, he signed up in Las Vegas to join the infantry in October 2003.
"He just decided at the age of 34 that he was going to fight," Gaynell Lapinski said.
She said Lapinski lived in Las Vegas from 1988 to 1991 and again from 1996 to 2003 and attended UNLV for two years before transferring to the University of Southern Florida. Lapinski earned a bachelor's degree in psychology, she said.
Lapinski had a difficult time finding a job after he graduated from college and eventually took a job at a Circuit City electronics store in Florida, she said.
He moved back to Las Vegas in 1996 and continued working at a Circuit City store here until he enlisted in the army.
Scott Pauzar, who had known Lapinski since they both attended high school in Florida, said they were roommates in Las Vegas from 1999 to 2003. Pauzar was attending law school at UNLV at the time and said he is now a prosecutor in Fort Myers, Florida.
"I tried to talk him out of going into the infantry but he (Lapinski) said no. He said he didn't want to sit behind some desk," Pauzar said.
Pauzar said that Lapinski was fully aware of the danger of infantry duty. Lapinski researched the idea of joining the infantry, and in the end enlisted, he said.
"He went in with his eyes wide open," Pauzar said. "He felt like he wanted to do something to help."
Rebecca Zisch, who said she dated Lapinski off and on beginning in 1999, described him as a highly intelligent man who spent much of his time reading.
"He was well-versed in history, politics -- he was so well-informed about so many subjects" she said.
Zisch, who lives in Las Vegas and works as a commentator on KNPR and as a women's studies instructor at UNLV, also said Lapinksi was very active in the local music scene.
She said it wasn't necessarily a surprise when Lapinski enlisted into the Army, saying that while it "wasn't the uniform I would have chosen for him," the war was something he believed in.
"He had a solid understanding of why we might need to engage in that conflict," she said.
Metro Police Officer Jorge Ralat, who also was friends with Lapinski, said that he was also not surprised by Lapinski's choice to join the Army.
"He wanted to be a part of history. It (his death) has affected us all and made the war a little more real," he said.
Zisch said a wake for Lapinski will be held
at 5 p.m. Sunday at Champagnes, 3557 S. Maryland Parkway.
Serious and dedicated is how Army Corporal Stanley Lapinski was while wearing his military uniform. But to his friends and family, the 35-year-old was known more for his smiling face and always having a good time.
"He was always an amazing friend. If he was someone's friend he would be there for them anytime they needed him," said his girlfriend Rebecca Zisch, who remembers the day Lapinski's mother called her with the news of his death. "She had left me a message. I missed her call initially, and I could tell by the voice on the phone what the news was going to be and I didn't want to hear it so I wanted a while before I called her back," said Zisch through her tears.
It was the attacks on America on September 11th, Rebecca says, that encouraged Lapinski to enlist in the military, "he always felt like he missed out on something. He was older than people who usually enlist."
Those close to him still can't believe he is gone, "Everyone says he just wasn't the kind of guy that you couldn't imagine this tragedy happening to because he was so strong and solid."
But it's his kind and generous heart, Rebecca will miss most, "he's somebody I'll always remember and always love."
Corporal Lapinski's parents now live in Florida.
They want to extend their sincerest appreciation to their son's friends
here in Las Vegas who have been supportive during their loss.
Lapinski was died Saturday when an explosive device detonated near his Humvee in Baghdad. He was part of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He is due to be buried later this month at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, his family said.
Jaime died Wednesday when his vehicle hit an explosive device near Ramadi. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Pendleton, California.
Jaime's twin brother, Joel Jaime, a Marine
also stationed in Iraq, was accompanying the body home, a Marine spokesman
Sunday evening started like any other that Stan Lapinski's friends might have spent in his company.
Friends talked over drinks in the dim Champagnes Cafe. They smoked cigarettes and settled into booths. The jukebox played.
When the music stopped, a man holding a guitar at the front of the bar raised a glass.
"Cheers, here's to Stan. Hold them up high," he said.
Army Cpl. Stanley Lapinski, a Las Vegas resident, died June 11 in Iraq.
Lapinski, 35, was riding in a military vehicle when a nearby explosive detonated along the streets of Baghdad.
Friends gathered at one of Lapinski's favorite bars to remember him Sunday as an extraordinary friend, music lover, and an uncommon soldier.
Brent Engle met Lapinski at the record store that Engle used to own. He told of having eye surgery in San Francisco. Recovering there and feeling despondent, Engle called Lapinski in Las Vegas.
"Boom, Stan was there the next day. There's not many people that would do that," Engle said.
Joanna Kimberlain said Lapinski was one of the most intelligent people she has ever known, a person who could talk about anything.
She said he was always around for a good conversation and was at her wedding, in the background of nearly every photo.
"It's like all the best memories, Stan's in them," she said.
Lapinski's friends said they were surprised when he joined the military, but they supported him and his fellow soldiers even if they did not support the war itself.
Rebecca Zisch, who used to date Lapinski, said she thought he joined the military partially in response to Sept. 11 and partially in hope to find his place.
"He never really felt fulfilled or felt like he was using the combination of gifts that he was given in life," she said.
Lapinski had a degree in psychology and was making plans for graduate school. He had once applied to be a police officer. And he used to host a radio show on the KUNV 91.5-FM "Rock Avenue" program as "Stan the Man."
Zisch said she and Lapinski found each other and friends in the bars and record stores of Las Vegas.
Champagnes, she said, was an appropriate place for a memorial. Lapinski's friends offered toasts like prayers and played what could otherwise be hymns on amplified guitars.
"This is where Stan would have wanted to be right now," Zisch said.
Former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren brought the Mid-East Mobile Memorial Wall to the bar and unveiled a panel bearing Lapinski's name. Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley also visited.
Sitting inside, at the end of the bar, Eleanor Dachtler came out of respect and to offer support. Dachtler's son, Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Anderson, 19, died six months ago in Iraq.
Dachtler said she took off work and tries to attend every local military memorial service.
"This week will be hard," she said. "It's too much, this week."
Zisch is flying Tuesday to Naples, Fla., where Lapinski's family lives and where his funeral will be Wednesday. He will later be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
In Lapinski's memory, Zisch sang a song Sunday, one she said was their favorite.
" 'No matter where you go I will always see your face,' " she sang, her eyes closed as she held the microphone.
She finished the song with a gesture repeated throughout the evening.
"We love you, Stan," she said, raising a glass. "Everybody, drinks high."
When military officials arrived at the home of Las Vegas resident Stanley J. Lapinski's parents last month to tell them he had been killed in Iraq, the first thing his father told them is that he had only one request.
But before the grieving father could finish his sentence, one of the officials said the request had already been granted.
"What is that?" the surprised elder Stanley Lapinski asked.
"Arlington," the military official replied.
The dead infantryman's father said he wanted his 35-year-old son to have the honor of burial in the national cemetery "because he was so interested inhistory." He said his son had planned to go back to school to get a Ph.D. in history and become a teacher. They had talked about Arlington one day, listing all the historical figures buried there.
President John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, President William Howard Taft, Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice Earl Warren and at least 240,000 other service members are buried there. About 20 to 30 funerals take place daily at the military cemetery, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, Army Corporal Stanley J. Lapinski became the 153rd person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
"To me, it's the highest honor you can pay a solider," said the elder Stanley Lapinski.
And he figures his son earned it.
"It is probably because he got the Bronze Star," his father said. In addition to that medal, his son also was awarded a Purple Heart and an award for good conduct.
During the service, his mother, Gaynell Lapinski, wore her own commendation -- a metal bracelet with a small photo of Stanley Lapinski, smiling and clad in desert camouflage; next to the photo -- a charm inscribed with the words: "In memory of my son."
The bracelet was a gift from the Army wives at Fort Stewart in Georgia.
Another charm on the bracelet bears the inscription, "Support Our Troops" next to an small image of an American Flag.
The day was bright, humid and hot as soldiers in full dress uniform carried Lapinski's casket to this burial site. His father said he knew it would be a nice day, despite terrible thunderstorms that hit Wednesday night.
"It about cracked the earth in half," Stanley Lapinski said. "But I was outside smoking a cigarette and got a funny feeling that someone was smiling down, saying it would be sunny today. That's what carried us through."
A private Roman Catholic funeral Mass at Fort Meyer preceded the burial.
Las Vegas resident Jorge Ralat, a friend of Lapinski's traveled to Arlington for the burial, attended the service and said as they sang "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful," everyone teared up.
"I know Stan and have known him for a long time," Ralat, a former Marine, said. "I had to be here for him."
Although his parents live in Beverly Hills, Florida, Lapinski lived in Las Vegas from 1988 to 1991 and again from 1996 to 2003 and attended UNLV for two years. After working as a Circuit City retail sales clerk in Las Vegas, Lapinski signed up for the Army in October 2003.
Lapinski's father, who called his son by the Polish nickname "Stash," short for Stanley, said his fellow soldiers called his son "Pops" because he so much older than most of them.
"If it wasn't for September 11, he wouldn't have gone," said Scott Pauzar, a friend and former roommate when Lapinski lived in Las Vegas.
Lapinski was assigned to the Army's 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Lapinski had only been in Iraq for four months when he was killed. He had become a gunner in April, his father said, which he wanted to do instead of driving trucks. He had just returned from a four-day leave to Qatar.
Lapinski received a four-page letter from his son a week after he died, telling stories of girls he had been checking out and how he got around a three-beer limit. He laughed and said he was not sure if he would show it to his son's mother just yet.
As people took their seats next to Section 60, Grave 8196, the sounds of drums and rifle shots could be heard from other funerals taking place. After a blessing, soldiers folded the American flag covering Lapinski's casket and gave it his parents, along with his medals. He received his own 21-gun salute and a military bugler played "Taps" before the family departed for a reception at nearby Fort Myer.
Karen and Jimmy Colson, from Dodson, North Carolina, drove to Virginia for the funeral. Their son Josh Colson, 23, was Lapinski's roommate at Fort Stewart, where they trained together, and in Iraq.
Lapinski's father said his son was killed just after relieving Josh Colson from duty. Colson had returned to their room and as he was changing clothes, he heard the explosion.
Stanely Lapinski said he and his wife do not agree that troops need to be in Iraq, but he wants to keep politics out of remembering his son.
"Whenever he came home on leave, however we felt about the war, we always supported him," he said.
Gaynell Lapinski said what she will remember most about Thursday is "all the wonderful things people said about my son and how fortunate we are to have these people in our lives."
She said that as a brigadier general handed her the flag off his coffin, he told her, "Thank you for a wonderful young man."
Stanley Lapinski said the the words from the service that will stay with him are:"Your son is a hero, there is no question about it. I will pray for you."
Other memorials for Lapinski are planned for August 2 in Las Vegas and later this month at Fort Stewart in Georgia, where a tree will be planted in his memory.
But Gaynell Lapinski said the best way to honor her son is to "just get the word out, support our troops. We need to get them out of there."
Stanley and Gaye Lapinski,center, the parents of Army Corporal Stanley Lapinski,
mourn over his casket during a military funeral for the native of Naples, Florida.,
at Arlington National Cemetery, Thursday, June 30, 2005.
Posted: 17 June 2005 Updated: 22 June 2005 Updated: 1 July 2005 Updated: 1 September 2005 Updated: 12 June 2007 Updated: 19 October 2007
Photo By: M. R. Patterson, October 2007