BROWNS SUMMIT, N.C. -- Stanley Krzywonos, one of the more than 125 World War II veterans who went on the D-Day Honor Trip Friday, said he is forever changed by his experiences -- particularly that which a nine-year-old girl made possible.
Krzywonos was a combat engineer in World War II and served in the 296th Engineer Combat Battalion. His crew drove onto Omaha Beach June 8, 2014--"D-Day Plus Two"--his 21st birthday. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and still vividly remembers the devastation.
He said he went on the D-Day Honor Trip to pay tribute to the "real heroes"--the men who never made it home. But, thanks to Triad school children, Krzywonos said all the veterans felt like heroes, themselves.
On the bus ride home from the D-Day Honor Trip to Bedford, Va. Friday, each veteran received one of the hand-written cards made by third, fourth and sixth grade students at Phoenix Academy in High Point.
Marcia James, the teacher who coordinated the card making, explained, "I've always felt it's crucial for our students to learn about the past... I have talked to the kids about how the freedom that we enjoy isn't really free--that many brave men and women fought for us to secure our freedom, and we really have an obligation never to forget their sacrifices that they made for us and to remember them."
Having just read her students a war story (A Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier), third grade classroom teacher Fiona Ireland said she was thrilled by the idea of giving back to the veterans.
"We discussed how the sacrifices made had affected all of our futures, and the children were just really blown away by it and made fantastic connections to it, and they really went to town with it and were so excited to participate," she said.
Ireland said while all the students' cards were heartfelt, one in particular really stood out. It was the card of nine-year-old Hannah Byon from Oak Ridge. Byon's grandfather is a Vietnam veteran, and he inspired her eagerness to put much thought into the card.
By chance, Krzywonos received Byon's card. He was touched so much by her efforts that he said, "When I go, I want them to put it in with me, you know. I want to hold on to this. I'm proud. I feel proud. And I want to thank her very much."
He told WFMY News 2's Meghann Mollerus, ""I want to tell her what a good job she'd done. I don't know her, and she doesn't know me, and I appreciate it."
So, with the help of Byon's teachers, WFMY News 2 arranged for Krzywonos to meet Byon. Tuesday morning, the emotional meeting took place at Krzywonos's home in Browns Summit.
He said, "I'm on cloud nine right now. What a wonderful thing. What a wonderful thing to meet them."
Watch/read the original story: "D-Day+2" Veteran Recalls Devastating Invasion Aftermath