Katara Simmons/News-Sun Bob Kurabieski talks about his father's collection of U.S. Army insignia pins that was donated to the Avon Park National Guard Armory.
click any photo to view this story's photo gallery
published: Sunday, October 20, 2013
W.W.II vet's collection donated to Armory
By PHIL ATTINGER
AVON PARK -- If you've ever wondered how many units the U.S. Army has created over the years, you might arrange a visit to the Avon Park National Guard Armory.
There's a collection there of approximately 2,000 insignia pins, framed under glass.
"Old vets come in to find their unit," said Sgt. 1st Class James Metz.
Metz said he hopes to catalog the collection, complete with information sheets on each insignia -- and photographs.
Without photos, he'd have no idea how to put it back together, he said.
The only man who could help him do that is 1st Sgt. Edwin J Kurabieski, who amassed the collection during and in between three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Kurabieski, since 2005, has been resting at Arlington National Cemetery, joined by his wife, Jennie J., in 2007, and their beloved dog, Benjamin, whose ashes were tucked under Kurabieski's arm before his funeral, said their son, Robert.
Bob Kurabieski donated the collection to the Armory because he wanted a place where it could be both appreciated and kept safe from harm.
"Ed was meticulous with these. He kept records," said Bob's wife, Dawn Kurabieski.
Bob Kurabieski said his father's hobby of collecting insignia pins was a labor of love, in part for the men he served with and to ferret out fakes at veteran's events and swap meets.
"He could tell," Bob Kurabieski said.
His father stayed close to the men with whom he served, he said, including fellow D-day veterans who landed at Normandy and were honored by the French government 12 years ago for helping liberate France.
When the French Consulate asked to honor 63 veterans on Flag Day, June 14, 2001, Bob Kurabieski wanted to tell the press about his father, but his father was reluctant.
However, Bob Kurabieski insisted and gave detailed information about his father's service to a reporter. His father kept the writer's article and didn't make any complaints about it -- a first, Bob said.
Ed Kurabieski joked with brothers in arms that day that if any of them knew they would have lived so long, they would have taken better care of themselves.
He did live a little while longer. Ed Kurabieski died at age 83 on May 1, 2005, almost four years after receiving thanks from the French.
He was in active combat in Europe from June 6, 1944, until May 8, 1945, ultimately spending more than two years in France.
He served with the U.S. Army 15th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized and received a Purple Heart for a gunshot wound in his ankle in September 1944 -- but not right away.
Ed Kurabieski was tight with his fellow soldiers and didn't want to be reassigned to another unit after a stay in a hospital, so he hid his wound. He said walking on it was like having a stick shoved through his ankle.
Bob Kurabieski can't imagine how his father marched on a bullet wound.
Ed Kurabieski later served with the 40th Tank Battalion in Korea and with the 4th Infantry Division 1st Cavalry 2nd Squadron in Vietnam.
His son, Daniel, was a Spec 4 with the 78th Artillery Unit at Fort Hood, Texas, during the Vietnam War and got orders to deploy. Since the rules still prohibited two family members from being in the same theater of war at the same time, his father -- with 25 years in the military -- took the orders instead. That tour ended in 1968.
Bob Kurabieski, more than three years younger than Daniel, served in Vietnam from 1971-72 as a helicopter pilot -- chief warrant officer of A Company of the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion 1st Cavalry Division.
His aviation unit pin may not be in the collection, he said, but his father definitely had pins for infantry, armored and artillery units.
Metz said some units were added for the buildup after 9/11. With the drawdown, "they're talking about folding some of those flags," Metz said.
He couldn't recall how many total units the Army had and still has.
Keeping track of the right pins is important, Bob Kurabieski said, because when a soldier is killed in combat he or she must be buried with their correct pins and the funeral director can't wait for their effects to be sent home.
For Ed Kurabieski's funeral, he was buried in his old dress blue uniform, the new standard for dress uniforms, Metz said --an homage to the Union Army of the Civil War.
"He never asked anything of his family," said Dawn Kurabieski, except to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Of course, they honored his wish, she said. Each year they visit his father and put a cigar in the ground by his grave for him.
As for his father's award from the French, Bob Kurabieski said that will go to his grandson -- his father's great-grandson -- to honor family history.
Small Banner Ads