WARFORDSBURG, Pa. -- More than 700 people gathered for a memorial service and dedication here, June 9, to remember the sacrifice by Lance Cpl. Steven W. Szwydek, a Warfordsburg native.
Szwydek, a mortarman from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was killed while conducting combat operations in Iraq, October 2005.
The ceremony, which took place at South Fulton High School, began with the presentation of the national colors by a color guard from Bravo Co., 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn., Frederick, Md., and the national anthem, sung by Stephanie Szwydek, Steven's older sister.
This was followed by remarks from a number of speakers including Brig. Gen. James C. Walker, military secretary to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who was present as the official representative of the Commandant, and Maj. Curtis Hill, II Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs Officer, an alumni of South Fulton himself.
The three-hour service, held in the high school's auditorium, also featured performances by the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Brass Quintet, and St. Patrick's Chorale of Hagerstown, Md.
Among the attendees were several Marines and Sailors who served alongside Szwydek with 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines during the deployment in which he lost his life.
Nancy and Mike Szwydek, Steven's parents, thanked family and friends during the ceremony for their support, and recognized the many individuals who helped to make the memorial a reality.
Thirteen-year-old Jamie Bryner, an 8th grader at South Fulton, was the catalyst of the project, according to all involved in raising the funds and organizing the ceremony for the memorial statue.
After learning of the Szwydeks' desire to memorialize their son and other troops, Bryner joined the effort and selflessly dedicated himself to raising funds for the memorial.
Bryner, who plans to become a Marine officer, said his inspiration to help came from knowing he was doing something to immortalize the memories of those who are fighting to keep us safe.
The immortalization came in the form of a bronze statue depicting combat boots supporting a rifle topped by a helmet and dog tags.
This traditional symbol of a fallen Marine was unveiled on the school's front lawn to applause and cheers from the assembled crowd.
Nancy Szwydek said the memorial is meant not just to represent her son, but all fallen servicemembers.
"We vowed that we would not let people forget the sacrifices our troops have made," she said.
The hundreds of people in attendance were also treated to a display of Marine air power as an AH-1 Cobra and a UH-1 Huey from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-775, Johnstown, Penn., landed in the school's parking lot before the ceremony began.
The pilots and air crews remained with the aircraft to answer questions and give tours to the dozens of curious onlookers at the ceremony.
After the ceremony, the Marines and Sailors returned to their various commands. Some from 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, returned to Fort A.P. Hill, Va., where they are conducting training as the Battalion Landing Team, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.