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updated: 5/20/2014 5:41 PM

Elk Grove students help WWII vet solve mystery of lost friend

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  • Chester Sewcyck, left, shows a newspaper headline from the World War II era to the Elk Grove High School U.S. History class taught by Stephanie Kezios, right, while visiting with students Tuesday. Sewcyck, an 88-year-old veteran of World War II, was stationed in the Pacific from 1944 through 1946.

       Chester Sewcyck, left, shows a newspaper headline from the World War II era to the Elk Grove High School U.S. History class taught by Stephanie Kezios, right, while visiting with students Tuesday. Sewcyck, an 88-year-old veteran of World War II, was stationed in the Pacific from 1944 through 1946.
    Kevin Modelski | Staff Photographer

 
By Kevin Modelski
kmodelski@dailyherald.com

All Chester Sewcyck knew about his friend Bud Weisfus was that he disappeared while serving in World War II.

Sewcyck, an 88-year-old fellow war veteran from Elk Grove Village, sent Elk Grove High School history teacher Stephanie Kezios all the information he knew about Weisfus to see if her Advanced Placement United States history students could find out more about his friend's status.

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Through online research, the students helped end Sewcyck's decades of wondering what became of his friend.

"We found the information that matched the serial number of the soldier that Chester gave me," Kezios said. "We corroborated our information and were comfortable with the outcome that (Weisfus) had died Sept. 24, 1944, and that he's buried in the Manila (Philippines) American Cemetery."

The students' findings were among the variety of topics they discussed with Sewcyck on Tuesday when he visited their class to share his wartime experiences in the Pacific Theater.

Sewcyck read the students a letter from Weisfus, an Air Force pilot, that described one of his air battles with a Japanese pilot. Weisfus wrote, "I'll get one someday."

"I hope he got one," Sewcyck said. "I'm interested in anything I can find on him."

Sewcyck began his presentation by describing the relevance of his military experience to the class' subject matter.

"It's about a period in my life that equals where you kids are today," he said.

Sewcyck showed photos he took while under the command of the 14th Air Force's supplies unit in the Pacific from 1944 through 1946. He said he chose the Air Force so that he didn't have to be in the infantry.

"The war wasn't coming to an end, so I could be drafted out of school or whatever."

Sewcyck gave the students detailed anecdotes of what military life was like in places such as Manila and Leyte in the Philippines and Morotai in the Dutch West Indies.

"I think we were so appreciative to have a World War II veteran because it's a war that we have lost a lot of personal connection with," Kezios said. "Teaching it and hearing a firsthand account is an extremely valuable experience we aren't able to do with a lot of wars."

Sewcyck's stories resonated with the students, who were inspired by his enthusiasm.

"It amazes me because he was our age," said Ashley Treder, a junior in Kezios' class and Sewcyck's neighbor in Elk Grove Village. "So to see what he had to go through and see how blessed we are to be here and not have to fight in battle like he was in is just amazing."

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