Airman native to Ottumwa dies

Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski, of Ottumwa, at right, was featured in a military news photo in March 2010, when he spent time showing Kyrgyz Army EOD techs how to scan packages for explosives.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski, 28, a native of Ottumwa whose family belongs to St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa, was killed in action May 26 while serving in Afghanistan.

He and another airman died in the Kandahar Province from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device, the Ottumwa Courier reported in its May 28 online edition.

A funeral Mass for Staff Sgt. Hamski will be held at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish, but the date and time had not been set as The Catholic Messenger went to press. Reece Funeral Home in Ottumwa is in charge of arrangements.

The airman attended Seton Catholic Elementary in Ottumwa and was a 2001 graduate of Ottumwa High School. Survivors include his wife; his mother and stepfather, Mary Ellen and Joe Winston; two sisters and a brother. He was preceded in death by his father, John, said Father Bernie Weir, pastor of St. Mary’s, who will preside at the airman’s funeral Mass.


Staff Sgt. Hamski’s mother and stepfather are active in the parish; Mrs. Winston is one of the main cantors at St. Mary’s who also assists at St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa.

Thoughts of Staff Sgt. Hamski drew a much larger crowd than usual to the annual Memorial Day Mass at Calvary Cemetery in Ottumwa, Fr. Weir said. “It took on a different tone than it probably would have because of his death.”

The priest gave the homily at the Mass, a collaborative effort of St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s parishes.  He spoke of how Americans don’t really honor their dead very well on Memorial Day — it’s become more like a vacation than a time of remembrance.

Fr. Weir said he preached that the God we believe in is a God of resurrection and peace.

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