Can you help bring a hero home for New Year?
December 29, 2010I look into the blue eyes of a boy. A boy dressed up in a soldier suit. Olive drab from head to toe. A medal pinned above his left shirt pocket in the exact spot that marks his heart.
He's a boy, but not really a boy. He's Stanley Robert Lewandowsky. He's 18 years old. That crazy space between child- and manhood. That legal age where so much is still unknown; so much left to learn; so much to lose and so much to give.
Stanley R. Lewandowsky knows all of this. He gave it all 42 years ago in the Quang Nam Province of the Republic of Vietnam.
I don't know Stanley, but I know what he's made of. I know he's someone's son, uncle, brother, neighbor, friend, husband, hero.
I want to help him get back home.
This photo of Stanley sits on my desk for four days. It's in an eight by ten double frame. On one side is Stanley's smiling face, his open expression, kind eyes.
On the other is a 'Report of Casualty.'
I look at it quickly and close the frames. I have never seen something like this, fortunately. I hope to never see anything like it again. I wish such things didn't exist.
But they do. I'm finding out a lot about what really does exist these days, and Stanley sits on my desk to remind me of the things we create and the things we destroy.
I open the folded frames again to copy what's on the Report of Casualty.
It reads as follows:
|Marine Pfc. Stanley Robert Lewandowsky was just 18 years old when he was killed in Vietnam. |
"LEWANDOWSKY Stanley Robert 2451009/0311 PFC USMC
Under line 2, 'Casualty Status,' there's a typewriter X in box next to the word 'BATTLE.' There's the all caps typewritten notation KIA, and the narrative "Died 21Sept68 Quang Nam Province (03) Republic of Vietnam as a result of a gunshot wound to the right side of the neck from hostile rifle fire and subsequently drowned when the boat he was in, while crossing a river, came under hostile attack."
Facts and information follow. His date of birth— "4Feb50"— race ("Cau:), religious preference (P), the date and place of last entry on active duty, Social Security number, pay grade (his base pay was $113.40 and HFP pay was $65). He had been in Vietnam less than a month, having arrived on August 26, 1968.
Stanley left behind a mother, Mrs. Dorine A. Black of Muskegon, Michigan (where he was born); and a wife, Mrs. Linda S. Lewandowsky of Paducah, Kentucky. The address of his father, John R. Lewandowsky, is listed as "unknown."
This is the official record of Stanley Robert Lewandowsky's death. It bears the raised seal of the USMC and is signed by USMC First Lt. CK. Haley. There's a handwritten notation 'Lib-1 pg 253" on the document.
Someone had folded it in half, then in half again before framing it along with Stanley's picture. I imagine the person viewing it for the first time. Not knowing what to do with the black and white-ness of it and closing it up, then closing it again.
Stanley Lewandowsky sits with me now because Nedra Beal, president of Almont American Legion's Auxiliary, wants to find his home, too. He was turned over to her by National City Bank, which sponsored a salute to veterans a few years ago. They invited area families and veterans to display the service and sacrifices of their loved ones for Veteran's Day. People came to collect their photos, but Stanley's was never reclaimed.
Nedra says she called the Lewandowskys in the area and they are not related. Maybe Stanley's someone's sister or uncle or friend who doesn't have the same last name. It obviously is someone who loves and cares about him, who thought enough of him and his ultimate sacrifice when he was so young, so filled with promise, that they took time to share it with all of us.
I'd like to get this treasured memory, this memorial to a young man who faced the horrors of war back where it belongs.
If you can help please call me at 810-724-2615 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.