Aug 1, 2014
10:40 AM
Connecticut Today

Scholarship Honors Connecticut Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

Scholarship Honors Connecticut Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

TJ Lobraico pictured during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.

Eleven months ago on the night of Sept. 5, Staff Sgt. Todd “TJ” Lobraico Jr. and his patrol team set out from Bagram Airfield in eastern Afghanistan into hostile territory. Members of the Air National Guard, they were tasked with protecting a military airport 25 miles north of Kabul in a flat between the mountains in Afghanistan’s Parwan Province.

Lobraico was at the front of his nine-man patrol, which was his normal spot. When the patrol encountered enemy fire, the 22-year-old New Fairfield resident put himself between the enemy and the rest of his group and was hit in the process. He soon died from his wounds.

Now his family has established a scholarship in his memory at Western Connecticut State University, the school Lobraico attended.

(Right: Lobraico with his dog Gus)

“The scholarship means the world to us,” says Linda Rohatsch, chief operating officer of PhysicianOne Urgent Care of Connecticut. “We want TJ’s legacy to last forever and ever, and every year when we’re awarding the scholarship to a fine young man or women in TJ’s memory we hope that people will reflect, ‘Hey what a great kid, I want to be like that kid.’”

Students can apply for the scholarship if they are following the same educational path Lobraico was on with the same viewpoint toward serving others. A $5,000 scholarship, it will be awarded to a student who is going to be a junior or senior majoring in Justice and Law Administration, with a minimum 2.5 GPA and registered for a minimum of nine credits. To be eligible applicants should work part-time and participate in community service. Finalists must write a short essay that answers the question, “What does service above self mean to you?

“The criteria emulates and it mirrors what TJ was,” Rohatsch says. “He was studying Justice and Law Administration at the university, his ultimate goal was to be a police officer. He wasn’t a stellar academic scholar, he had about a 2.8 GPA, so we made the minimum GPA recruitment one of a child that’s probably working as well as going to school simultaneously.” She adds, “We wanted it to go to someone like TJ, a good kind hearted person that was going to school to follow his dreams. Someone who could be a full-time student, could work 15 to 20 hours a week and give back to their country, whether it was as TJ did through the military, or was at an animal shelter, or volunteering at a women’s center.”

(Below: Lobraico and his mother Linda Rohatsch) 

Lobraico enlisted in New York Air National Guard in 2008 after graduating from New Fairfield High School. He served a tour of duty in Iraq and volunteered for his deployment to Afghanistan in 2013. By entering the military he was following in the footsteps of both his parents. His mom, Rohatsch, is a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard and commands the 105th Medical Group at Stewart Air Base in Newburgh, New York, the same base that Lobraico was assigned to. His father, James Lobraico, is an Air Force veteran of the first Persian Gulf War who serves as a master sergeant with the 105th Security Forces Squadron and is also a Stamford police officer.

Lobraico’s family had the idea for the scholarship soon after his death and Western Connecticut officials were immediately supportive of the idea.

“We appreciate that TJ’s family looked to us to help keep his memory alive,” says Paul Steinmetz, the school’s interim associate vice president of Institutional Advancement. “TJ left his mark with his courage and it’s very special for the university to be associated with him in this lasting way.”

Asked what she’d like people to know about her son Rohatsch thinks a moment before responding.

“I would describe TJ as just a kind loving all American kid. Just a happy free loving spirit, always looked at the positive in everything, always a glass is half full kind of kid. He liked to laugh, that’s for sure.” 

Those wishing to donate to the scholarship fund can do so online or by calling Western Connecticut's office of Insitutional Advancement at (203) 837-8279.

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Scholarship Honors Connecticut Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

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