St. Cloud community funds Normandy trip for local WWII vet
By Tiffanie Reynolds
Seventy years after landing his craft carrying men and gasoline on the shore of Normandy, World War II veteran Daniel Jarczynski joins his fellow servicemen on the same site this weekend, thanks to the support of St. Cloud.
Jarczynski started writing letters to the federal government back in December, asking for a way to join in the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Five letters later, and with no reply, his story was passed to St. Cloud City Council Member Jeff Rineheart, who, by mid-May, gathered enough people and funds to fly Jarczynski and his son to the anniversary.
“It was the easiest money I ever found to raise,” said Rineheart.
Immediately after hearing the story, Rineheart agreed to donate some money and passed the news to city staff. Within weeks, contributions by Dave Askew from Askew Jewelers, City Manager Thomas Hurt, St. Cloud Lobbyist William Barrett and Jana Wood, the city had gathered enough money to pay for Jarczynski’s transportation, room and board. During a May City Council meeting, more money was donated after Jarsczynski spoke, giving him a free trip.
Raised in Toledo, Ohio, Jarsczynski quit high school his senior year to join the Navy and fight in World War II. He was a part of the D-Day invasion as a captain of a 50-foot landing craft. He returned to Toledo to get his honorary high school diploma and worked in the area until moving to Volusia County and finally St. Cloud. He is one of three men remaining from his group of six high school friends that joined and survived the war, and he considers himself one of the lucky ones.
“I’m no hero. I got two silver stars, but I’m not a hero. The heroes are the people under those white crosses, and everybody that’s going to be back there tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday they’ll all tell you the same thing. They’re no heroes. It’s the white crosses,” said Jarsczynski.
His son, David Jarczynski, didn’t know how much his dad was involved in the war until his father shared his story. When he was growing up, he knew his dad fought in World War II and was there during D-Day, but it was the first time he knew in detail what his dad went through. Jarczynski wanted to take David to the anniversary with him to show what he really went through in that war.
“When the story came out, he actually told everybody in our family about what he had actually had gone through, we didn’t really know anything. We just knew that he was over there, and actually what he had gone through and how close he came to dying. A couple times, while he was there, he could have easily not ever have come home, and I was just really floored by the whole story,“ said David.
For many that contributed, it was a small way for them to give back to veterans who fought during World War II. Along with contributions from the community, the St. Cloud Police Department also gave him an official escort to the Orlando International Airport Wednesday morning, working with law enforcement departments in other jurisdictions to organize a clear path through traffic all the way to the airport terminal.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you get a bunch of people together, and there’s rallying, said Askew. “In a span of ten minutes it’s just, ‘Yeah, you’re going.’ It just makes you feel good.”