"This is a big honor for me and my family. God bless my dad. God bless America. I love you, my dad. I love America."

Genowefa Augustynski
Daughter of Pvt. John Jedrzejek,
killed in World War II and given
a military burial yesterday

Genowefa Augustynski showed a passport with a photo of her late father, Pvt. John Jedrzejek, yesterday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. Jedrzejek was killed at Guadalcanal in 1943 while serving with the U.S. Army's 25th Division. Ursula Augustynski, Genowefa's daughter, is at right.

A hero’s burial


Wednesday, July 6, 2005

» John Jedrzejek was 28 when he died in 1943. A Page A3 article Saturday said he was 23.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

In 1938, John Jedrzejek left his wife and 9-month-old daughter at his parents' farm outside Krakow, Poland, and went to America to build a new life. His family never saw him again.

Pvt. John Jedrzejek

Jedrzejek, 23, died in 1943 fighting in the Pacific for the U.S. Army in World War II.

Yesterday, daughter Genowefa Augustynski was able to give her father a proper sendoff at a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, which included a 21-gun salute and sounding of taps.

"This is a big honor for me and my family. God bless my dad. God bless America. I love you, my dad. I love America," said Augustynski, who attended the ceremony with her two children.

Jedrzejek was born in Detroit in 1915. His parents returned to their native Poland with him six years later.

After getting married and having his first child, Jedrzejek returned to Detroit. Before he could bring his family to America, Poland fell under Nazi occupation.

Jedrzejek, still an American citizen, joined the Army and was sent to the Pacific. He died in the battle for Guadalcanal. The U.S. government could not notify Jedrzejek's family of his death because they were still in Nazi-occupied Poland.

"When I was 6 years old, we received a letter from his friends from Detroit, Mich., about his death," Augustynski said.

Another family friend in Detroit later sent Jedrzejek's death certificate and a picture of him.

His grandson Adam Augustynski recounts what his grandmother said she went through after learning of her husband's death.

"They were ready for 60 years together, and suddenly it all ended. And they didn't hear any word for years as to what happened and why it happened," he said.

After the war, Jedrzejek's remains were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

In 1963, Augustynski and her mother, Zofia, arrived in Detroit. They could not find Jedrzejek's grave because his name was misspelled on some of his service records.

Years passed. Augustynski married and raised a family, and her mother died in 1984. By then the family had moved to Chicago. Over the years, Augustynski and her family continued to wonder where the 23-year-old Polish American, who dreamed of a life for his family in America, was buried.

"My mom and I were asking my brother about this because we thought it would make more sense if he was honored," said Ursula Augustynski, Genowefa's daughter.

While Adam was on a summer college internship working for Illinois Sen. Paul Simon, he met then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Edward Derwinski.

"Famous last words that Secretary Derwinski said were, 'If you ever need anything, son, let me know,'" Adam said.

That turned into a successful search for Jedrzejek's grave, a new headstone with the proper spelling of his name and two posthumous awards, the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Adam Augustynski said whatever records he has found still do not give a complete picture as to what happened on Guadalcanal and how his grandfather died. But he is sure his grandfather is pleased that he accomplished his goal of giving his family a better life in America.

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