RICHTON PARK--(ENEWSPF)--June 9, 2012— For one long month, mile after mile-- 5,125 of them—470 fourth through sixth grade students trekked around and around the Sauk School campus.
And so did all of their teachers.
And so did all of their school secretaries and paraprofessionals.
The entire Matteson District 162 school community walked these many miles because their sixth grade teacher, Megan Smart’s older brother went the “extra mile” and lost his life while on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Nowaczyk, 32, of Munster, Indiana, a highly decorated soldier, died from wounds he suffered April 15, 2012 when an IED (improvised explosive device) hit his Humvee while on patrol in the Kunar Province.
In ceremonies at the school today, Sgt. Nowaczyk’s life and brave accomplishments were remembered as a large certificate recording the miles walked in his memory was presented to his widow, Rachel Nowaczyk of Munster, Indiana and his parents, Patti and Andrew Nowaczyk of Dyer, Indiana.
A 10 ft. Autumn Maple tree was planted by members of the sixth grade class in the school garden in his honor.
In dedicating the tree, Kevin Murphy, a Matteson District 162 board member, said, “this tree will be rooted in our collective consciousness to remind us of the greatness Staff Sgt. Nowaczyk exemplified in his life and his living. When we look at this tree, this symbol of life and giving, may we not mourn because a great man has fallen. May we instead smile, because a great man lived.”
“When the Sauk School community learned of Sgt. Nowaczyk’s death we all felt moved to express ourselves to his sister, our sixth grade teacher Megan Smart, through actions not words,” said Michael Bauer, principal.
“So, we decided to walk as many miles as we could between May 6 and today, the 68th anniversary of D-Day, around our school grounds to honor this brave soldier who went the ‘extra mile’ serving our country during three tours of duty in Afghanistan, fighting for freedom,” said Bauer.
Dr. Blondean Davis, Matteson District 162 superintendent , spoke of the dual anniversaries this week when 67 years ago, in June of 1943, the definitive Battle of Midway raged in the Pacific and then just one year later, on June 6, 1944, when the largest flotilla ever assembled in modern history was launched as soldiers, sailors and airman set out on D-Day to cross the English Channel, land in France and begin the final campaign that ended World War II.
“Both of these tumultuous events were turning points in important battles for our freedom.
“Our hope is that we are at a turning point again when brave young men like Sgt. Nowaczyk will no longer place their lives in harm’s way,” said Dr. Davis.
“The common denominators among the heroes who fought in the shark-infested waters of the South Pacific, on the beaches of Normandy and in the mountains of Afghanistan today are courage and devotion to duty – no matter what the consequences.
“It’s most inspiring to see the impact that the sacrifice of this brave and highly decorated American hero made on these young students at the Sauk Elementary School. Their action, of walking miles and miles in his memory, is a wonderful expression of their appreciation for our faculty member, Megan Smart, and the respect they have for her late brother, Sgt. David, in recognition of the service he gave to our country,” she said.
Sgt. Nowaczyk, a native of Harvey, Illinois, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2005. After basic and advanced individual training at Ft. Benning, Georgia he graduated from Airborne School in 2006 and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum, Kentucky.
In 2006, he was deployed for eight months with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan as a rifleman. In 2009, he deployed for another 12 months to Afghanistan with the Combat Team as a fire team leader. His third tour of duty to the combat zone was in March, 2012, with the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Sgt. Nowaczyk was a highly decorated non-commissioned officer. Among his numerous awards and decorations are: two Bronze Stars, two Army Commendation medals, a National Defense Service medal, a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal, an Army Service ribbon and one Purple Heart-- awarded posthumously.
In addition to his wife, parents, and sister, Sgt. Nowaczyk is survived by a daughter, Kiley, a stepson, Connor and grandmother Delilah Weddington.