Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Memorial Day Journey
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 10:06 PM PDT
By Patricia Goodin/ News Editor
Tomorrow evening, Novatan Dianne Baczynski leaves on a journey - a bittersweet journey in search of her past.
Baczynski will join a group of 20 others, including 15 whose fathers were killed or declared missing in action, and travel to the Philippines to see for themselves where their fathers fought and died in World War II.
“I am thinking of my father today - a man whom I have missed all my life,” said Baczynski.
Most members of the group journeying halfway around the world belong to the American WWII Orphans Network (AWON), an organization formed in 1991 by Ann Bennett Mix, whose father, Sydney Bennett, a member of the 10th Mountain Division, died in Italy in 1945. AWON has a large international membership though its Web site: www.awon.org.
On Memorial Day, the group will begin their journey to the past at the Manila American Cemetery, where most will visit their fathers' graves. Two among the group will see - for the first time - their fathers' names on the Wall of the Missing. Baczynski is also bringing some of her mother's ashes to sprinkle onto her father's gravesite.
The AWON war orphans, now in their 60s, will be escorted to the Cemetery by American Battle Monuments Commission Superintendent Larry Adkison and Assistant Superintendent Hubert Caloud. The group be greeted by U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenny and Leslie Murray of the American Chamber of Commerce, as well as members of the American Association of the Philippines.
AWON provides support for members with national and regional conferences, a newsletter and assistance in accessing military records. For most, just knowing another war orphan is the greatest support imaginable.
The group will also visit Leyte, invasion sites and memorials, Corregidor, Bataan and the Death March markers, as well as the Hellships Memorial, the American POW Memorial and places where POWs were held such as Santo Tomas University and Cabanatuan.
The group departs for the U.S. on June 4.Baczynski said she thinks of her father as “a man who left his wife and five children to pay the highest price in service to his country. “I honor him with pride and love.”
With thanks for submitting the story
– in memory of PFC Frank Henry Wiegand.