Eastside students get thank you visit from grateful soldier they’ve supported

Published 3:39 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2004

By Staff
NILES -- There was a mutual admiration society going on at Eastside Elementary School Tuesday as students welcomed back Master Sgt. Greg Iwaniuk from his tour of duty in Uzbekistan and Iwaniuk got the chance to thank the students who had sent him letters over the last several months.
Iwaniuk, a Niles native and normally a business instructor at Lake Michigan College, is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves and spent the last year at an air base in Uzbekistan. He returned home to Niles in late April.
This wasn't the first time that Iwaniuk had been called up to active duty.
He also served during Operation Desert Storm and was deployed to Saudi Arabia.
This time, he served with a logistics battalion at a base in Uzbekistan, providing food, water, fuel, and other provisions to U.S. troops at three bases there and occasionally to troops in Afghanistan. He also monitored private contractors who provided services for the troops.
Iwaniuk has two connections to Eastside: his wife, Jan, is a custodian there and his daughter-in-law, Emily, teaches sixth grade. It was students from both Emily Iwaniuk's and Diane Curry's classes that took on the project this last December of writing letters to him in Uzbekistan.
In addition to the good feelings they got from sending the letters, students in each class received a bonus from Iwaniuk as he presented each class with flags that had flown over his army base there.
He talked Tuesday about the importance of seven "army values" such as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
Iwaniuk also described for students some of what he did in Uzbekistan as well as some glimpses into that country's history and culture. He noted that the base where he was stationed was where the "war on terrorism" started in late 2001 with the attacks on Afghanistan.
As for the history of that country, he noted that it was once a part of the former Soviet Union before achieving its independence a decade or so ago. Uzbekistan's main crop is cotton and most of the people are quite friendly, he said.
were Americans was 'do you know Mike Tyson?'", he said.
On a historical note, he showed students photos of the bridge Alexander the Great crossed centuries ago as well as the place where the Old Testament prophet Daniel is supposedly buried. He also brought examples of traditional Uzbek clothing including dresses and robes, Uzbek money, and as well as some U.S. military fatigues.
For their part, Curry noted that the students in both her and Emily Iwaniuk's classes did more than just write letters to Iwaniuk. "Students did comparison reports between their country and ours in terms of their flags, their schools, and other features," she said. "They also made a collage that we hung at our school open house."