| God Bless you.
Distinguished guests, dear friends, and men of 1-10, thank you for attending this ceremony to celebrate Jeff Toczylowski’s life.
Let me first start by saying that I don’t deal with loss very well. This may seem odd to those of you who know how many cell phones and wallets that I’ve lost in the past 3 months. So please bear with me as I get through this.
From the pamphlet in your hands and the story boards you can glean some background information about TOZ for those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to know him as well as so many of us did. I will try to fill in the gaps and tell you about the guy that so many of us called friend.
He was born on August 26th 1975 in Pennsylvania to Phillip and the Incredible Peggy Toczylowski. Raised in a tight family, his decisions to attend Valley Forge, join the army, and finally join the Special Forces, reflected, I believe, a desire to stay in close-knit communities that might have some way mirrored his family dynamic.
He volunteered for the challenging training that’s meant to make warriors of men including Airborne, the Q Course, and SFARTAETC because he knew it would place him in a unique, tightly knit community with the best soldiers in the world like the Zane Heavner’s, the Kevin Koch’s, and the Chris Keiths.
Aside from training, he spent his entire military career in Germany with troops. When we would talk together about the next step, always foremost in his mind was how he could prolong what we had now and stay within the community.
I find it such an honor, dreadful though it may be, to eulogize my friend.
So when I was thinking about how to approach writing this I looked around everywhere for thoughts and guidance. Ironically, I took Jeff’s lead and found that a letter to our friend, like the one penned by Jeff to Chris in July, was the most fitting.
And, just so you know that great minds think alike, Ryan, our friend and fellow team leader in Iraq took the same approach.
I’ll read his letter first.
Jeff, Hey bro, be on your guard because the next time I see you I’m gonna punch you square in your puffy face. Not your fault, but you got a fresh one coming anyway.
We’re all gathered here to share stories about you and remember, in our own ways, the guy that made us smile countless times. First, let’s get through the work business. Logan’s award has been resubmitted and Chad’s warrant packet is in getting finalized, no issues there. About the little inconsequential stuff, I went to your house and the gas is back on; Chad moved your bike to his garage and Kelly even found it in the kindness of her heart to clean that damned peat bog out of the back of your truck despite high risk of amoebic dysentery. No need to thank her she says, because you’d do the same for her and we all echo that.
I’ve been keeping in touch with your family and they’re doing well. Chris Sabo from 3/10 is taking good care of them. Your mom, as always, is the lead conductor of the Toczylowski philharmonic. I talked to her yesterday. She starting to wonder if your request for a “ traditional Irish Wake” was meant to shock everyone or just keep her busy in preparation. Well, she’s staying busy and that’s helping her through the rough times. Good call.
You created quite a stir with your final letter, and now everybody thinks that you were always so well prepared.
Don’t worry those of us that knew you best know differently. We got it out to everyone we could and it hit the newsstands immediately. Surprisingly, the journalists were tasteful in their interpretation of your intent. I owe that to the fact that you never minced words. Now the world, and not only your friends, knows the selfless extent of your service and that you died doing what you loved and believed.
I’ve been getting emails and phone calls incessantly for the last 5 days now. Beyond the initial expressions of shock and disbelief, everybody wants to talk about all the fun times you had together. But, in doing so, I can reasonably say that we blew off your demand not to cry.
Kelly, Makenzie, and Ashton are staying strong, and if Chris checks his email then you’ll see Makenzie’s letter. I promise I won’t let them down, but they still need Chris and you to look in on them from time to time.
I think the remaining horsemen, Me, Matty and Ryan, are taking this the worst as we decide how to fill the huge, bulbous vacuum, figurative and literal, that you created.
Who’s going to make us crack up, and Major Laske cringe, during our weekly training meetings?
Who’s going to ride point from here to Heidelberg and back? Ryan sure as hell won’t. He couldn’t navigate his was out off the kaserne and even then, he’d have to ask his team sergeant, Brian Berkebile for permission.
Although I wouldn’t have told you this a month ago, you had an amazing ability to bring perspective to and make light of any situation no matter how stressful. And the surprising acts of kindness, out of the blue, like mix cd’s, matches, baby shoes, monkey bread, seven-day dip, and lip-gloss when you least expected it.
Those acts brought you so close to all of us. And I think those are what we miss most about you. Who’s going to be there to make us laugh at the end of the day? That was a tough question, and I thought about it for a while before it hit me like one of Ryan’s blinding flashes of the obvious. You will.
Everyone has enough “TOZ” stories to sustain them because the memories that we created were timeless. Alright, I’ll leave you with that.
I don’t want your ego to suffocate the congregation.
Some of the guys are going back to Valley Forge and Arlington to see you off and pay their respects to your family. We’d all be there, but you know more than anybody that there’s still work to be done.
I ask that you watch over our families and us while we do what you were willing to sacrifice everything for and that which you loved so much. I’ll see you later buddy, Your friend, John