A Staten Island community is mourning a 24-year-old soldier killed in Afghanistan, remembering the decorated sergeant as a local kid with "a smile of gold."
Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis died Wednesday in Ghani Province in an attack that involved an improvised explosive device and small arms fire, according to the Pentagon.
On the Staten Island street where he grew up, flags flew at half staff Friday as the neighborhood mourned Ollis' loss.
"I know he was a brave soldier and he died for our country but all we see him as is little Mikey, running around playing with the girls, going to the pool," said neighbor Mary Anne Misiti.
Another neighbor said that he worked with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter to clean up after Sandy, often working overnight to clean out moldy residue and wood.
"No matter what the situation was, even with all the construction here -- because we got wiped out from Sandy -- he had a golden smile," he said.
Ollis was an infantryman in the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Drum in northern New York.
Ollis joined the Army in August 2006 after graduating from New Dorp High School. After serving in Germany and Fort Campbell in Kentucky, he arrived at Fort Drum in November 2011. He previously had done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His unit was deployed to Afghanistan in January. He was supposed to return home in less than a month.
Ollis is survived by his mother and father.
Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York