July 3, 2008

Dog tags to return home after 65 years

The Australian man who has the World War II dog tags of a long-dead Bristol veteran said he’ll send them soon to the soldier’s son in Harwinton.
“It will be like having a piece of my dad back with me,” said Charlie Kawiecki.
Kawiecki’s sister, Monica Popadic of Monroe, told her son Thursday that she is fine with letting her brother have them.
Harry Jas, the Australian who has Ezebius Joseph Kawiecki’s dog tags, said he will return them to the family.
Jas said a Munda man named Alpine found the dog tag in the jungles of New Georgia, where they had been since 1943, when Krawiecki fought there against the Japanese.
Jas said he’s trying to buy up some 200 abandoned dog tags and other war-related equipment in order to create “a local war memorial or museum” in Munda.
“I just felt that the dog tags should go to the next of kin not tourists, as some have in the past,” Jas said in an email.
Kawiecki said he is grateful to Jas and The Bristol Press for tracking him down.
“Too often people forget about the sacrifices our fathers made so that we can have what we have today, but my wife and I will never forget,” he said.
Kawiecki said that his father, who died in 1981, “was a very quiet man that never complained much at all, but was always there to support me throughout my growing years,” including helping with the Boy Scouts and following his Little League career.
“Although he loved watching war movies, he never talked about his experiences and always brushed them off as something he was supposed to do, but I am sure he was a very brave man,” Kawiecki said.
Ezebius Kawiecki, called Joe or Whitey by friends, worked at New Departure after the war, loved to fish, married and had two children, his son said.Chris Popadic of Rhode Island, a grandson of the veteran, said his grandfather must have served in Europe as well as the South Pacific. He said that when his grandmother died some years ago, the family found a Nazi gun in her home that he brought back from the war.
Another relative said that Kawiecki was in a ski unit in Europe after being wounded in the Pacific.
Jas said he got interested in the old identification tags after his son, Harry Jas, Jr, worked for a few years in the Solomon Islands as a consultant for its jails.
“He fell in love with the place” and moved there with his two children, helping to set up a timber company, Jas said.
Five months ago, Jas said his son remarried so now he “related to what seems like half the island.”
Since his son has been in Munda, a major city on New Georgia island, Jas has visited twice.
He said he’s met four Munda men who have collected dog tags and other war-related items, including anti-aircraft guns.
“I would like to see if I can convince them to put their collections into a local war memorial or museum,” Jas said. “That would give them jobs and be good for tourism.”
If anyone would like to help Jas with his effort, send an email to scollins@bristolpress.com.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Tim Gamache said...

Great story.Kudos to Mr.Jas.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done, Mayor Ward. You've helped bring some comfort to this man's family.