Sauk students walk 5,125 extra miles to honor soldier
By Steve Metsch email@example.com June 6, 2012 11:48PM
Delilah Weddington (far left), and Andrew (second from left) and Patti Nowaczyk (left center), grandmother and parents respectively of Staff Sgt. David Nowaczyk, walk past a certificate held by sixth-graders Kylin Coleman, 12, (second from right) and Cedric Johnson, 12, (far right) that was signed by all 470 students and 30 faculty and staff who walked 5,125 miles during May to honor the service of Staff Sgt. David Nowaczyk, who died in Afghanistan in April, 2012, during a "Going the Extra Mile and Tree Planting Ceremony" at Sauk Elementary School Wednesday, June 6, 2012, at 4435 Churchill Drive in Richton Park. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 6:52PM
Because Army Staff Sgt. David Nowaczyk went the extra mile by serving three tours of duty in Afghanistan, students at Sauk Elementary School went extra miles for him. Thousands of extra miles.
In honor of Nowaczyk, who died in action April 15, 470 students and 30 staff members walked a total of 5,125 miles from May 6 through June 1 around the track at the Richton Park school, 4435 Churchill Drive.
“We talked about how he went the extra mile, and in tribute to him our kids decided to go the extra mile,” Principal Michael Bauer said.
Nowaczyk, 32, died after his Humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device. His sister, Megan Smart, of Crete, is a sixth-grade teacher at the school.
When Nowaczyk was killed, students decided to do something that “really spoke to what he gave to us. Instead of a token picture, they decided to do something and started walking,” Bauer said.
Sixth-graders Kylin Coleman and Cedric Johnson, both 12, discussed why they walked.
“I thought of him, I thought of how he served our country. My uncle (Eddie Coleman) is in the Army. I’d want people to do the same thing if my uncle died,” Kylin said.
Cedric said he walked “because my brother is thinking of going into the Army, and this is the least we can do for Sgt. Nowaczyk.”
During a school ceremony Wednesday honoring Nowaczyk, Smart said her brother “was a good person” who “loved to laugh. He was good at his job and he did it well.
“Every day, they (students) would tell me how many miles they did. It put a smile on my face. They were wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for a better class. They’ve been very supportive,” said Smart, who has taught at the school for eight years.
Nowaczyk’s parents, Andrew and Patti, of Dyer, Ind.; his grandmother, Delilah Weddington; and his widow, Rachel Nowaczyk, of Munster, Ind., attended the ceremony, which included the planting of a 10-foot autumn maple tree. Nowaczyk and his wife have two children.
Matteson School District 162 Board member Kevin Murphy said the 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 of giving, may we not mourn because a great man has fallen. May we instead smile because a great man lived,” Murphy said.
District 162 Supt. Blondean Davis noted that Nowaczyk was being honored on the 68th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that began the fall of Nazi Germany in World War II. And the Battle of Midway took place 69 years ago.
“Both were turning points in the battle for freedom,” Davis said. “Our hope is that we are at a turning point again today when brave young men like Sgt. Nowaczyk will no longer have to place their lives in harm’s way.”
Andrew Nowaczyk said his son died doing what he loved.
“We had a few talks about it. Then one day he showed up and said he had enlisted,” Nowaczyk said of that day in 2005. “He didn’t have to do a third tour, but he was dedicated to his troops. He knew the terrain. He knew what to expect. He felt there was a duty to his men to be there and lead in any way possible. He’s a good man, a good father, a good soldier, a good son.”