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Hershey Derry Township Historical Society hosts WWII tour historian

Written by witf.org | May 22, 2012 1:21 PM

The Hershey Derry Township Historical Society, which houses a permanent collection of Major Dick Winters’ military memorabilia, offers an exclusive commemorative tour, “In the Footsteps of Major Dick Winters.” Winters, a resident of Hershey - until his death in January, 2011 - is recognized internationally as the commander of Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division, whose WWII service was chronicled by Historian Stephen Ambrose in his highly acclaimed novel “Band of Brothers.”

The Society will host tour Historian and Guide Steve Mrozek at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, May 30, at the Society’s headquarters in Hershey. Mrozek will speak about the itinerary and the unique experiences offered on the Society’s tour.

Mrozek, a Michigan resident and combat paratrooper, served as historian for the 82nd Airborne Division National Association for 20 years and is passionate about World War II history and connecting with veterans. He participated in the 45th and 55th anniversary jumps, wearing a WWII era uniform. Of his experiences, jumping from a C-47 aircraft in V-formation over the Dutch countryside where Winters jumped in 1944, Mrozek remarks, “As an historian you try to understand how things happened, the facts and the cause and effect. This experience took it to an extreme where I was actually participating in the event,” Mrozek said. “I was with veterans who were telling me what it was like and we were jumping out of this plane together on an original battlefield with weapons and experiencing the same reaction between the Dutch and Americans.”

“The magic of these tours is I can actually take someone to the ground where these things happened and point to it and say, ‘this happened right here.’”

In 2009 Mrozek was referred to travel coordinator and Historical Society member Laura Passuello to serve as a guide for the first tour. Since then, the Society has hosted nearly 150 people from over 20 states on its exclusive tour which honors the leadership and legacy of Major Winters. The consensus among those travelling with Mrozek is that he adds a level of detail to the history that brings it to life. In Europe, he enjoys “behind-the-scenes” access to museum exhibits and counts many docents and military enthusiasts among his friends, all who warmly welcome travelers on this distinctive tour.

Close friends of Winters, including veteran Bill Jackson, a eulogist at Winters’ 2011 funeral, have been on the tour. “Steve Mrozek brought home a lot of details of the journey that the 506th Easy Company took and just made it a really wonderful trip,” Jackson said.

“Steve Mrozek is a traveling encyclopedia, and his descriptions of the action really brought life to the places we visited, many of which are not on the average tourist's map,” said Kirk Gibson, a member of the Pennsylvania chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association who traveled on the April 2011 tour.

“You can read a book, or you can walk on the same ground where these things happened and then you can truly understand and appreciate the terrain and other conditions that influenced the historical event,” Mrozek said.

Registration is appreciated. Contact the Society at 717-520-0748 or email trips@hersheyhistory.org.

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