or the past six years, I’ve written this column hoping my passion for fitness would help others get motivated to change their lives, but this has not always been the case.
Instead it’s often been me who is humbled and inspired by the actions of others I’ve come into contact with along the way.
Elizabeth Loncki was definitely such a person. I never had the privilege to actually meet Elizabeth, but after learning her story, I instantly knew what kind of person she was by how she lived her life.
Elizabeth A. Loncki was born in New Castle, where she attended St. Peter’s grade school and graduated from Padua Academy in 2001. She was a vibrant, athletic girl who never backed down from a challenge and took pride in everything she did. She played volleyball, softball and basketball, and loved to lift weights and work out. She was very competitive and was known for her ability to do large numbers of push-ups.
After high school, Elizabeth decided that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, and she decided to join the Air Force. Upon her arrival she took a job placement test and scored extremely high, giving her lots of job options, but Elizabeth chose the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, otherwise know as the bomb squad.
In 2006, shortly after Elizabeth completed her EOD training, she volunteered to go to Iraq to use her skills to help save lives. During this time, violence in Iraq continued to escalate, and roadside bombs were killing large numbers of Iraqi citizens as well as American service men and women.
“As part of the EOD – explosive ordnance disposal – team Elizabeth’s job was to find these bombs and disarm or detonate them, and that’s exactly what she and her team did,” said Steve Loncki, Elizabeth’s father, “She told me they blew something up almost every day so that these bombs would not be able to hurt anyone else.”
During her time in Iraq, Elizabeth and her team literally saved hundreds of lives. In one particular instance, Elizabeth was awarded the Bronze Star for voluntarily taking control of a vehicle, putting herself in harm’s way and rescuing a group of Army soldiers who were pinned down in an ambush.
Some 20 days before her tour in Iraq was to end, Elizabeth and her team were killed while trying to disarm a roadside bomb. She became the first Delaware woman killed in Iraq in the line of duty and the 66th female soldier. At the age of 23, Elizabeth A. Loncki gave her life for her country so that others can live freely both home and abroad.
To honor the wonderful life of Elizabeth Loncki, friends, family and fitness buffs get together each year to compete in the Annual Old New Castle Run. The run features a scenic 5-mile race through historic Old New Castle as well as a 2-mile run/walk. All proceeds go to a scholarship fund for tuition for needy families in Elizabeth’s Loncki’s name. I knew this would be an excellent cause to champion.
This year’s race will begin at 8 a.m., Saturday June 4, in New Castle. For more information and directions go to OldNewCastleRun.com or contact Jim Steele at 302-530-7274. You may also pick up a race form by stopping by The Firm Fitness Center in Rehoboth Beach.
“We miss her and want to celebrate her life,” said Tina Loncki Masiello, Elizabeth’s aunt. “Participating in this race in her name was the closest we could get to accomplishing this goal.”