My Hero

By Nicole Steinberger

Joseph J Suzdak

My great papa, Joseph J Suzdak, is my hero. He is my hero because he is the strongest, bravest person I know. He served in the U.S. Air Force during WWII.

Why He Is My Hero

When he arrived in England in 1943, he was assigned to be the waist gunner of the 67th Bombardier Squadron. He was in his third mission against Germany, and it was the last mission he served. Joseph was on a brand new B-24 aircraft, flying over Holland. The first engine on the right side was failing, but the pilot didn't think it would interfere with their mission. But soon the pilot found it impossible to stay in formation, and at 12,000 feet, the nose of the plane was dipping. They crashed into a grassy field, the aircraft was destroyed, but everyone had survived. Shots rang out and soon they were surrounded. They were taken to Stalag 17, which is near Krems in Austria. The conditions there were very poor. hot or even running water rare, very little food, and some of the guards hit the prisoners. Soon, my papa and 4,000 other men were marched to a camp near Braunau, Austria. The Germans knew how badly the prisoners were treated, so when the Red Cross told them they were coming, they panicked. The Germans led the prisoners to a woods, told the prisoners to go to sleep, and the Germans had fled by morning. When the Red Cross found them, my great papa was 97 lbs. He was so malnourished he had to be hospitalized for months.

My great papa suffered from PTSD for many years and has night terrors. After my great grandmother died in 2007, he barely talked. He never liked to share his story and got angry or was quick to change the subject when asked about it. The only reason I know about it is because my grandmother begged him to share it for a newspaper.

My great papa is the bravest person I know, he is very caring, and he's an amazing person. He is a hero in my eyes, his story deserves to be shared.