ST. GEORGE — A new Staten Island ferry boat will be named after a soldier who died shielding a Polish soldier he didn't know from a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.
The Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis is one of three new boats that will make the run between the borough and Manhattan and will set sail in 2019, de Blasio said.
"This was an extraordinary young man and we lost him way too soon, but his deeds, his example, continue to show people the right way," de Blasio said of Ollis, who lived on Staten Island.
"His name will be seen every single day in this city and in this borough as a reminder and as an inspiration for us all."
The 4,300 passenger boat will be designed in the Kennedy class of ferries and is part of a $156 million federal grant given to replace the three oldest ferry boats.
"They'll have the look that I think is everyone's favorite model," de Blasio said.
The push to name a boat after Ollis, who died in 2013, started with an online petition last year that gathered more than 5,700 signatures.
Ollis' parents, Bob and Linda, said they weren't sure the boat naming would happen but were happy the memory of their son will live on.
"If Michael could reach down from heaven, he'd rap me on the back of the head saying 'why are you making such a big deal? I didn't do anything,'" Bob Ollis said.
"But for Linda and I, it makes Michael's memory still alive and that's what we're pushing for, to keep his name alive.
"Being a Vietnam vet, I've lost so many people who's names just disappeared and when Michael passed I refused to let that happen."
Ollis, 24, an infantryman, stepped in front of a wounded Polish soldier and blocked him from a blast from a suicide vest an insurgent was wearing during an assault on a base in Ghanzi, de Blasio said.
The lifelong New Dorp resident previously served a tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, the Audie Murphy Medallion and the Polish Medal of Honor, the country's highest military award, de Blasio said.
The three new ferries — including the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis — is currently in the design phase and will be made to handle extreme weather conditions, the city said.
The design will have features of past ferry boats, including outdoor promenades, and will have modern engines and technology.
Last year, the city surveyed riders on three new potential seating for the boats and is currently reviewing the responses.
Aside from the Ollis boat, the second new ferry is expected to hit the waters in 2019 and the third in early 2020. The city has yet to pick names for them.