Port Hudson National Cemetery - photo by Renegade
ARLINGTON, Va. — Just a few years ago, Lance Cpl. Steven Szwydek was a classmate of students at a high school in the mountains of Pennsylvania's Fulton County. Now the fallen Marine is part of their history lesson. On separate days this spring, students from all three high schools in his home county visited Arlington National Cemetery, where they stopped for a moment of silence at his white tombstone. The bus trips were paid for by a memorial fund established by Szwydek's parents.
Their quiet son — a history buff who loved to hunt deer — was 20 when he was killed in 2005 by a roadside bomb during his second tour in Iraq.
His mother, Nancy Szwydek, is a strong supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war but said the trips are not about politics or trying to influence students to join the military. She and her husband don't accompany the classes on the trips.
She sees the annual visits as a way to teach students "to respect our freedom." Teachers say the trips are as much about establishing connections — between kids growing up in a rural county, and world events.
Nancy and Michael Szwydek, who own a country store, decided a college scholarship in their son's name would not have made sense because he chose the Marines over college.
"I think he would not want himself being the focus ... but I think he'd be real happy the students have had a history lesson," Nancy Szwydek said during an interview at her home in Warfordsburg, Pa., near the Maryland border.
For some of the students, the stop at Szwydek's grave is personal because they attended school with him at Southern Fulton Junior/Senior High. They recalled seeing their teachers cry the day it was learned he had died.
Be sure to take a moment to reflect on all of those who died for this country - they gave us the freedom to enjoy the holiday with friends and family... they must not be forgotten!