A vessel that will be added to the Staten Island Ferry fleet was named yesterday for a son of the borough who died in Afghanistan saving a fellow soldier.
Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, 24, of New Dorp, was killed in 2013 after he “ran toward the danger, throwing himself in front of a suicide bomber,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference at Staten Island’s St. George Terminal.
Ollis, who saved a Polish soldier, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and the Polish Medal of Honor among other awards for bravery.
“If Michael could reach down from heaven, he’d be grabbing me in the back of the head, saying, ‘Why are you making such a big deal? I didn’t do anything,’ ” Ollis’ father, Robert, said alongside the soldier’s mother. “But for Linda and I, it makes Michael’s memory still alive.”
Robert Ollis said that, as a Vietnam War veteran, he had witnessed too many fallen colleagues’ names fade from the daily conversation. “When Michael passed, I refused to let that happen,” Ollis said.
The boat, now named the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, is the first of three new 4,500-passenger, high-tech ferries that are expected to begin service in 2019 and 2020. The new ferry class, which is still in the design phase, is funded by $314 million in federal, state and city grants and other money.
“When a child predeceases a parent, it’s unnatural and it’s unfair,” Staten Island borough president James Oddo said.
An online petition to have a ferry named for Ollis garnered 5,700 signatures. Three vessels in the current eight-ferry fleet are named for politicians.