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By: A Jarheads Dad

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Thursday, 9-Feb-2006 12:00 Email | Share | Bookmark
Steven's folks are Semper Fi!

LCpl Szwydek loved the Iraqi kids!
Here's hoping everyone can rally around this special fund! God Bless the Szwydeks! "Always Faithful" is not just a slogan! -JHD

Fallen Marine’s Parents Establish Memorial

Seek donations to fund student trips to Arlington National Cemetery
By Lindsay R. Mellott
Staff Writer

A memorial fund that honors the dedication and sacrifice of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces has been established by a fallen Fulton County Marine’s parents, Mike and Nancy Szwydek.
Formed in January, the nonprofit Semper Fi Memorial will provide money to the county’s three school districts to cover the cost of taking high school students on annual field trips to Arlington National Cemetery.

The Warfordsburg couple’s son, 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Steven W. Szwydek, was killed in Iraq on Oct. 20 when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated while he was driving the lead Humvee on combat operations near Nasser Wa Salaam.

Two other Marines with Szwydek also lost their lifes.

Lance Cpl. Szwydek was assigned to Weapons Co., 2nd Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was about half way through his second tour of duty in Iraq at the time of his death.

The Szwydeks say that instead of setting up a scholarship in their son’s name, they wanted to provide young people with an experience that would teach them something about the reality of war and the selflessness of those who serve their country.

Mike and Nancy hope that students will come away from Arlington with a better understanding of freedom’s high price. “Maybe gain a little respect for what our military does, our freedoms, what we have in this country,” said Nancy on Friday as she paged through a photo album highlighting her son’s military career at the village store she and her husband own and operate in Dott.

The idea for the memorial fund took root following Steven’s funeral service at Arlington. According to Nancy, as many as 60 FFA members representing all three county school chapters – Steven belonged to Southern Fulton’s chapter – attended the service.

“We received so many comments from the students about how they look at the flag differently and things like that,” Nancy said.

Money donated to the Semper Fi Memorial will be used exclusively for the cost of chartering buses and meal allowances. The Szwydeks will assume all other memorial fund expenses, such as postage, long distance phone calls and other administrative costs.

Nancy said that students could possibly visit other places of interest in Washington, D.C., as part of the trip. That, she said, along with who goes – juniors or seniors – is up to the schools.

On the bus ride to Arlington, Nancy said, a DVD of her son’s memorial service in Iraq will be shown. “We realize that down the road students will not know who Steven is, but they’ll be able to see what it’s like to be part of a unit and what our military goes through.”

So far, Steven’s alma mater, Southern Fulton, has said it wants its senior classes to take the trip. Nancy has spoken with McConnellsburg High School principal Todd Beatty and expects that his school will want to be included and, she said, she is waiting to hear back from Forbes Road after contacting the high school by phone.

Nancy, her husband and two of their adult children administer the memorial fund, which is able this year to only underwrite the cost of Southern Fulton’s trip to Arlington in the spring.

“By next year I’m hoping to send all three (schools),” Nancy said. “We want it to be a yearly thing, that’s why we’re trying to get the word out a little bit about the memorial fund itself, thinking that Fulton County people might be interested in donating to something like that.”

Fundraising for the Semper Fi Memorial has just begun. Over the next weeks, the Szwydeks plan to solicit donations from churches, community organizations and individuals. Because it has been given 501(c)3 status by the Internal Revenue Service, contributions to the fund are tax deductible and should be made payable to The Semper Fi Memorial, c/o Nancy Szwydek, 276 Mays Chapel Road, Warfordsburg, PA 17267.

Nancy also said that a February blood drive at Warfordsburg Presbyterian Church Faith Center will be held in her son’s honor. She hopes to place a memorial fund donation box there for contributions.

Weapons Co. is on its way home to Camp Lejeune this week and the Szwydeks are leaving on Friday to be there for the troops homecoming. “The guys have asked,” Nancy said. “We’ve gotten letters from Iraq and they want us there.”

Nancy admits that the homecoming will be emotional for her and the family, but said she thinks being there will be helpful. “I think it will help us with some closure,” she said.

“You know, this community has helped us,” she said. “This community has really been so supportive – the community, the Marines, families. That helps us until we have our heads on straight ... .”

Additional information about the Semper Fi Memorial can be obtained by calling Nancy at 717-294-6774.


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