HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Matthew Miscikowski is an 11th-grade student at Deep Run High School in Henrico.
He has a bright future.
But the essay he wrote for the Virginia War Memorial reminisces about a time when he was much younger.
It remembers the kind old man who used to play with him.
"It wasn't until later that I realized I had the honor of knowing someone from the greatest generation," Matthew reads from the essay. “That someone was my grandfather, Michael Troyanoski.”
Troyanoski was a sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II.
He was a navigator, engineer, radio operator, and gunner on B-17s and B-24s and flew in 37 bombing raids over Europe.
Matthew really didn’t know these things, until he learned about the essay contest that instructed students to write an essay about an inspirational WWII figure.
"I saw it and I said, 'Hey! My grandfather was in World War II,'" he said.
Thankfully, his mother kept all the old photos and collected the stories of Matthew's grandfather's time fighting the Nazi war machine and being part of search and rescue operations in the Pacific.
"I had no idea that the man holding my Thomas the Tank engine was a war hero who fought for the freedom of future generations," Matthew said.
Judges at the War Memorial were impressed Matthew realized his grandfather was one of the lucky ones who made it home.
He was able to marry, have children, and grandchildren thanks to the sacrifices of others.
"We call them the greatest generation because of their commitment, humility, bravery, and love of their country," Matthew said. "And there will never be another group like them. I close by saying from their stories and pictures, they'll continue to inspire future generations to unite, to commit, and defend the honor of this country."
Building Better Minds with Rob Cardwell airs every Wednesday at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on CBS 6 and is sponsored by Virginia Family Dentistry.
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