Family mourns Bovey native who died in Iraq
The family of a Bovey native killed in Iraq last month held visitation for him Friday in Grand Rapids.
Chief Warrant Officer Philip Windorski Jr., 35, died last month when the helicopter he was flying crashed into another one outside of Kirkuk. His family was looking forward to seeing him during a scheduled break in July, but now they're trying to comprehend that they'll never see him again.
Karin Windorski, Philip's wife, got her first hint of something terrible when she read a news story Jan. 26.
"It had just been posted and all it said was there had been two helicopters in a crash," she said. "In my heart, I just knew."
Her husband was piloting one of them. There were no survivors.
Karin, who was studying to be a grief counselor to help families of military men and women killed in action, found herself facing that very trauma, but still crying for others.
"I really feel that when people say they're sorry to me for my loss, I honestly feel that I feel sorry for them because they didn't get to know him," she said.
It's his sense of humor, she says, that people who knew him will remember. That and his desire to leave things better than how he found them.
"He was so glad to be in a position to -- not dictate -- but he could help make changes to make things run better, and better take care of the other aviators."
His other passion was family. Karin says Windorski wasn't a soldier with a family, but a family man who happened to be a soldier.
His friends knew it, too.
"We've lost, for me, my best friend, and definitely lost one hell of a family man," said Chris Ashe, a friend who met Windorski in the military.
They all called him "Ski."
"I never met anyone who didn't like Phil," Ashe said.
Ashe said Windorski's two children and stepdaughter are his legacy, but he also passed on his love of flying.
"He loved to teach, and that's what he gave his life doing," Ashe said.
He said Windorski was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, training pilots and happy to be there among his friends, watching over them from the sky.
That comforts his widow.
"For him, it wasn't so much going out looking for bad guys and that thing," Karin said. "He was covering his brothers and sisters."
She says she'll continue her studies to be a grief counselor for military families in her husband's honor and to honor his commitment to help others.
"The loss for us is great, but the blessing that we had him is better," she said.
Windorski's funeral will be held at 1 p.m. today at Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids.