Mike was 24 years old and had only been in Iraq for six weeks when he died for our country. He was assigned to the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division and was responsible for his platoon of four tanks. It happened when the M1A1 Battle Tank in which he and three other Marines were traveling flipped off a bridge into a canal in Al Anbar province, Iraq. All four of the young Marines in the tank drowned. Also killed were Cpl. Steve Vahaviolos, 21, of Airmont, N.Y., Rockland County; Lance Cpl. Jason K. Burnett, 20, of St. Cloud, Florida.; and Lance Cpl. David J. Grames Sanchez, 22, of Fort Wayne, Indiana
Mike was born on Long Island, New York on April 11, 1982. He grew up in Garden City and attended Chaminade High School, Class of 2000, where he was a member of the track, cross country and crew teams. From the earliest days of his childhood, Mike knew that he wanted to be a Marine. Following an arduous admissions process he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics in May 2004. At the Academy he was a model student, courageous boxer and active leader of the 30th Company where he developed strong and lasting friendships
Mike was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the USMC at graduation. He completed The Basic School at Quantico, Va., before graduating as Class Honorman at the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, Ky., in July 2005. He took command of 1st Platoon, A Company after joining 2nd Tank Battalion. He led his Marines through several company and battalion level exercises to prepare them for their deployment with RCT-5 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While deployed to Iraq, he led his Marines on numerous independent operations. Among his awards for service are the Iraq Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Medal.
Mike was an honest, ethical, modest, diligent and hardworking student and Marine. He was exceptionally loyal and fiercely dedicated to his family, friends and the Corps. Above all, he was an honorable man.
Capt. Edward Y. Blakiston, A Company’s commander, spoke of Marines’ reactions when they received the news of the four Marines’ deaths. They were resolute, determined, focused and ready to carry out the necessary missions to recover their fellow Marines.
“On the morning of May 11, a giant hole was ripped through the soul of this company,” said 33-year-old Blakiston, from Umatilla, Fla. “In one fell swoop, we lost four of our own. It was almost surreal that morning as everyone focused on the tasks at hand. As time moves on though, the loss slowly sweeps in. Little everyday events remind us of them and the fact that they are gone, show us how much of our lives they really were.”
Blakiston described each Marine saying Vahvaiolos and Gramessanchez were “both with the company the most” and “could be trusted to do their parts.” Burnett, he said, was “one of the new guys” who was “mature for his age” and a “strong, smart and tough Marine.”
LiCalzi, Blakiston said, was “full of life” and a “poster Marine.”
“He was a good person, fine officer and great Marine,” he added.
“I met Mike LiCalzi two years ago and since then, we’ve since then, we’ve shared almost ever experience together,” said 2nd Lt. Jeffrey Potter, from Federalsburg, Md. “Mike was more than a peer. He was a friend. Mike enjoyed learning new things, no matter what the topic might be.”
Potter said LiCalzi took up Italian cooking while stationed in Kentucky and was an avid reader of National Geographic magazines.
“He measured himself not on his tangible accomplishments, but of how well his men, his family and his friends were cared for by him,” Potter explained. “We are all lucky to have had the chance to meet such a good man.”
"He stayed at my house in DC over St. Patty's Day weekend 2006. I'm a former Marine officer. Got out in Dec 2005. Mike, his buddy 1st Lt Adam Lynch (USMC) and I drank too much and stumbled home from the bar in the early morning hours. I remember talking to Mike for hours that night. I had only just met him, but we shared the instant bond that all Marines share. Instant friends, instant trust, instant acceptance. I could see the clear look in his eye. The kind that instills trust and confidence in young Marines. The fresh enthusiam, the dedication, the anticipation of his deployment. I found myself missing the Corps a lot that night, because Mike embodied the finest qualities of the USMC. That was apparent from the moment he looked me in the eye and shook my hand.