View Full Version : Opicka laid to rest surrounded by those he touched

04-30-08, 07:59 PM
Opicka laid to rest surrounded by those he touched

By Andy Nelesen
Gannett Wisconsin Media

Lance Cpl. Dean Opicka, 29, was one of two Marines killed April 14 by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was buried Thursday at St. Adalbert's Catholic Cemetery, less than a mile from the picturesque swath of farmland he called home.

Despite the tragedy of the day, Dave Opicka drove himself and his wife, Donna, to the cemetery, and hauled along two folding chairs to ensure everyone in the family had a seat.

They all stood.

A blustery spring wind ironed every crease from the dozens of American flags lining the small, rural cemetery. However, the flaps and snaps of Old Glory and rush of the wind would yield to the three sharp cracks of the Marine honor guard's three-volley salute and the somber tones of taps echoed on the graveyard hillside.

"On behalf of the president of the United States, the commandant of the Marines and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of your son's service to our country," said Col. Brent Dunahoe, commanding officer of the 24th Marine Regiment, as he handed the folded casket flag to Opicka's parents.

Family and Corps

Dean Opicka was the third of four boys raised on a dairy farm just outside the village of Casco. He graduated from Luxemburg-Casco High School in 1997 and Carroll College in Waukesha in 2002. He earned a teaching certificate there in 2005, was an educator at a Milwaukee-area charter school and worked with an agency that helped adults living with disabilities.

He was engaged to be married to Katy Bonkoski in June 2009.

Darren Opicka, the youngest of the Opicka family, also is a Marine and served two combat missions in Iraq. He spent the past two days in his military dress uniform — part Marine, part brother.

"I've walked in the same soil that took Dean from us," Darren Opicka said.

The 23-year-old corporal delivered one of two eulogies at his brother's funeral Mass April 24.

"Everyone knew Dean as a giver in all aspects of life," he said. "It never mattered what Dean had, but rather what you needed.

"Me and Dean were both very proud, not just to be brothers, but also United States Marines — to serve the great nation, to serve an outstanding tradition and freedom.

"Dean's passion and what he believed in led him to the greatest sacrifice for freedom — his life, which he gave honorably," Darren said, his voice growing stronger as he talked of his brother's duty to his country.

Doug Opicka, Dean's older brother, thanked the packed church and the community for supporting his family in a difficult time.

"Although sometimes we didn't know if you were expressing your condolences or trying to fatten us up for Thanksgiving," Doug joked. "We definitely appreciate everyone that's been stopping by the house and telling us how much Dean meant to you."

Doug recited a poem sent to the family that extols the strength, courage and devotion of a U.S. Marine.

Doug shared a letter Dean received from a friend on the eve of Marine boot camp.

"Before you do one of the greatest things in your life, you should know that you have a slew of people who think you're pretty fantastic," Doug said, reciting the letter. "You're strong-willed, stick to your convictions and passionate about life. You are hilarious, intelligent, kind and thoughtful."

Sworn protector

Through much of the hour-long funeral service, Opicka's parents sat motionless, eyes focused on the altar.

Darren Opicka led the casket's journey in and out of the church, pressing the folded American flag between his white-gloved open palms while the ceremonial white pall took its place on Opicka's casket.

After the graveside service, Darren climbed into a backseat with the folded flag — the symbol of everything he and his now-fallen brother swore to protect — still in his grasp.

"Dean, you're going to be missed by all. You've been an amazing Marine, a tremendous friend of all and the most incredible fiancée, son and brother anyone could ever have asked for and will forever be in our hearts," Darren said.

"We love you Dean, it's time for you to get some rest. Brother, you not only earned it, but deserve it. Your mission's over. You're home now."