U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Strachota, 28, a native of Pine Bluff, died in Afghanistan over the weekend, days before coming home for his son’s third birthday, according to family members.
Strachota died of injuries suffered in hostile action in an incident that is still under investigation by the military, his family says.
Contacted Monday, an Army spokesman wouldn’t release details, however the family was notified of Strachota’s passing Sunday afternoon.
Strachota was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, and assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
He is survived by his wife, Lauren Strachota and son, William Strachota of Fort Hood, Texas; his mother, Linda Baxter of Star City; his father, Patrick Strachota of Pine Bluff; and his grandmother, Betty Bradshaw of Pine Bluff.
Lauren Strachota says that she married Michael after just six months of dating.
“When you know, you know,” Strachota said of Michael being her perfect match. “We met back in 2003 and got married in 2004. Michael joined the military in 2007 and we’ve been at Ft. Hood since Oct. 26, 2007.”
Strachota said that her husband was devoted to their young son, William, with Michael planning to return from Afghanistan soon to be part of an important milestone.
“He would have been home in a week,” Strachota said. “He was trying to come home for our son’s third birthday on July 5. We missed it by a week.”
Strachota said that her husband was an all-around great person.
“He was a good husband and a great father,” Strachota said. “Michael was a very loving person. He was funny. Everybody liked Michael. He was always the center of attention.”
“He was good at his job,” Strachota said.
“In fact, he would tell everyone how great he was at his job,” Strachota laughed as she described her husband’s confident attitude. “He was a great soldier. He was excited about his job as a driver. He drove heavy equipment transports. When he came back from Afghanistan he wanted to either become an Army Ranger or he wanted to learn how to fly, which is something that he could do as a civilian as well. He was trying to be promoted.”
“He will be missed. We love him,” Strachota said as her voice began to waver. “We just want everyone to know what a good person he was.”
Strachota’s mother Linda Baxter said that her son was a generous and kind-hearted person.
”He would do anything for anybody,” Baxter said. “He was very friendly and outgoing.”
Baxter said that her son had delayed his scheduled R & R so that he could be home for his son’s birthday.
“He was supposed to be here in a few days,” Baxter said.
Baxter said that her son joined the Army as a career choice.
“He was a young man trying to decide what he wanted to do,” Baxter said. “This was his second tour. He was in Iraq for 10 or 12 months during his first tour.”
Baxter said that family members would be traveling to Dover, Dela., in the next couple of days to meet her son’s body.
“We are supposed to go out there and meet him,” Baxter said. “We will be there for a few days and then we will come home.”
Strachota’s father Patrick Strachota is proud of his son’s accomplishments and character.
“He was a great husband to Lauren,” Patrick Strachota said. “He was a man of faith. He was the most caring and loving person you could ever find. He loved his wife and son. He was a devoted family man.”
Patrick Strachota said that his son had been happy to be coming home to see his family.
“He was looking forward to spending Will’s birthday with him,” he said. “Michael was in Iraq when Will was born.”
Patrick Strachota said that his son enjoyed being in the Army.
“He was a great soldier and was just promoted to sergeant. He was going to apply for Warrant Officer School. He planned to fly helicopters,” Patrick Strachota said.
Strachota enjoyed fishing and riding motorcycles in his off time, his father said.
“Whenever he got home we had planned to spend a few days riding together,” his father said.
“He was a very good soldier,” Patrick Strachota said of his son. “He died doing what he liked to do.”
Strachota’s grandmother Betty Bradshaw remembers her grandson’s baseball exploits.
“He played Little League ball,” Bradshaw said. “He pitched a no hitter and The Commercial did an article on him. He was a good boy.”
Bradshaw said that Strachota attended Trinity Episcopal Day School and graduated from Pine Bluff High School.
“He liked the Army,” Bradshaw said. “I just sent him some books because he told me he wanted to become a helicopter pilot and was studying for that.”
The Army expects to make an announcement Tuesday, saying they could not confirm the death Monday, a spokesman said.
An investigation into the incident that led to Strachota’s death is underway.
Funeral arrangements are pending.