Luna Moth Project honors Malachowski, other fallen Carroll County veterans with sculptures

When James Michael Malachowski was a young boy he loved insects.

Before he turned 10, he entered his projects into 4-H county fair competitions, kept a pet tarantula — that his mother remembers oftentimes got loose at home — led nature walks at the Bear Branch Nature Center and taught entomology to high-schoolers in Westminster.


“But once Jimmy started to get older, the interest in the insects went away and we figured he’d be a little scientist or something,” his mother, Alison Malachowski, said this week. “But no, he chose the Marine Corps when he was 17. He said that's what he wanted to do.

“And just as he excelled with his bugs, he excelled with the Marines as well,” she said.


In March 2011, however, Malachowski died at 25 years old with 10 other Marines in Afghanistan.

His family has been keeping his memory alive ever since.

Returning to civilian life after serving in the military can be complicated, but Carroll County has resources for its veterans to make that process a little bit easier. Here are the biggest issues facing the county’s veteran population and ways to work on resolving them.

“He said, ‘I just don’t want anyone to forget I ever lived,’ ” Alison Malachowski said, recalling one of her last conversations with her son before he died.

So when Ted McNett, assistant supervisor for career and technology education for Carroll County Public Schools, came to the Malachowski family two years ago with the Luna Moth Project, they gave him their blessing.

The Luna Moth Project

McNett remembers teaching young Jimmy Malachowski at the Carroll County Outdoor School, back when he was an entomological enthusiast and insect whisperer.

“One of the things he did as a 9- or 10-year-old, is he led an evening insect collection activity,” McNett said, “and one of his most exciting things, that somehow stuck in my head, was he caught a luna moth. And that was sort of the prize for him at the time, that he was able to do that and preserve that specimen.

“And then he was killed in Afghanistan,” he said, “and shortly after that they named the bridge on [Md. 140] in honor of him, his honor and memory.”

Americans across the nation celebrated Gold Star Family’s Day on Sept. 30. And this year was the first time Carroll County residents participated in the event, which is designed to honor the families of those who have died in the military.

Seeing the section of Md. 140 dedicated to Malachowski sparked a bigger idea for McNett, who decided to create a 3-foot-long luna moth memorial sculpture for him out of steel.

“It will be 26 inches from the tip of wing to tail of the wing,” he said this week, “and the body of it is 3 inches in diameter, and 10 inches long.

“And that will be installed outside of the Bear Branch Nature Center, right at the location where Jimmy had done that nighttime insect collection activity,” McNett said.

The collaboration

Ted McNett invited the public to help him and the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland create a luna moth sculpture in memory of Jimmy Malachowski at the Carroll County Farm Museum on Nov. 10 — as well as create smaller luna moths to be included in an indoor exhibit at the nature center in memory of other fallen veterans, whose names will be included in the project.

The pieces for the 100 smaller luna moths were forged by a welding student at the Carroll County Career & Tech Center.


McNett had a poppy sculpture on display at the Farm Museum on Saturday, to show part of his inspiration — a project done by Terrence Clark in Ypres, Belgium.

“He sent a request out to blacksmiths across the world to help make 2,000 poppies,” said McNett.

He made a smaller version of the sculpture with 20 poppies to keep at the Farm Museum.

“I was stunned [when he first told us],” Alison Malachowski said this week, “and I mean, I really was so deeply touched that he remembered Jimmy. I just thought it was amazing that he wanted to do this project for Jimmy, to honor Jimmy and other veterans.

“I hope it takes off,” she said. “I hope it goes across the country and everywhere, because I think it’s so important that veterans be remembered.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun