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Town memorializes hero

July 10, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WARFORDSBURG, PA.

Jamie Bryner never had a conversation with Lance Cpl. Steven W. Szwydek before an improvised explosive device killed the 20-year-old Marine last October.

The pair was separated by eight years and half the world at the time.

Yet Bryner's actions not only brought him closer to Szwydek's spirit, they united 600 people given the opportunity Sunday to memorialize their friend, neighbor, classmate and fellow Marine.

"Jamie, I hope you know the impact you've had on us and all the people in this auditorium and how important it is that we never forget," Nancy Szwydek said to the 13-year-old Needmore, Pa., resident who made her son his "fallen hero."

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In two months, Jamie solicited more than $5,000 needed to give Southern Fulton High School a statue honoring the 2003 graduate who served with Weapons Co., 2nd Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, also known as 2/2 Weapons Co.

Jamie, an eighth-grader in the Southern Fulton School District, only met Szwydek twice before his final deployment to Iraq last summer. The only thing the boy knew they had in common was a lifelong desire to be a Marine.

"That, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what's right with our younger generation," said Maj. Curtis Hill, a Fulton County, Pa., native who served as master of ceremonies.

The afternoon's ceremony culminated with the statue's unveiling, after haunting selections performed by the St. Patrick's Chorale and a Marine Corps brass quintet, remarks from commanding officers and the 2/2 Weapons Co. chaplain, and gratitude expressed by the Szwydeks and Bryners.

People representing several branches of the military and several generations thanked Jamie, frequently calling him a Marine. Jamie plans to attend Young Marines boot camp next summer and is preparing care packages to send overseas.

"Jamie, since the age of 3, has had a passion for this," said his father, Curtis.

The statue, displaying combat boots and a helmet, is not only dedicated to Szwydek, but everyone killed while serving the United States.

Steven Szwydek "was a kind, caring soldier. He was willing to lay down his life for his freedom," Jamie said.

"Freedom is not free. We do vow to make sure no one forgets that," Nancy Szwydek said.

Her youngest son, Corey Szwydek, is preparing to train with the U.S. Navy.

Watching servicemen from the 2/2 Weapons Co. gathered around the statue, she called them "my Marines."

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