FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- On many days you can walk through the halls of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and hear stories of long ago being told to Paratroopers. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tadeusz Gaweda, the brigade's honorary sergeant major, is telling those stories.

Gaweda speaks with an accent that draws you and gives away the fact that must have spent his early life somewhere other than the United States.

After wearing the Army uniform for 35 years, Gaweda retired and has dedicated his life to the soldiers and families of the 82nd Airborne Division. For that dedication he was honored with the Doughboy Award Sept. 19, 2012, at the Maneuver Conference dinner at Fort Benning, Ga.

The Doughboy Award is presented annually to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions to the United States Army Infantry. The award is presented on behalf of all infantrymen past and present and is the highest honor the Chief of Infantry can bestow on any infantryman.

"I am genuinely proud to be an American and equally proud to have worn the uniform of the United States Army," said Gaweda. "It was worth every success and failure, every exhilaration and disenchantment, every joy and heartache."

Born in Poland, Gaweda and his family were forced into a Nazi labor camp in Germany. After Americans liberated the camp he immigrated to the United States and joined the Army at the age of 18 as an infantrymen.

He said his greatest moment came while aboard the USS Walker in 1953. "I was the liberator," he said. "That was the greatest experience I ever had. They fought to liberate me. Now its my chance."

Gaweda served many tours during his long career. He has served four tours in Korea, two in Vietnam and hand full of others. Even though he is no longer in the Army, he has always managed to find his way to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit deployed soldiers.

"I visited the regiment in Iraq and in Afghanistan on four separate occasions over the past years," said Gaweda. "What a tremendous honor and privilege it was to visit the soldiers in the best Army in the combat zone."

Gaweda, who still lives in Fayetteville, N.C., published his autobiography in 1999 "I love America." The book tells how he escaped the Nazi labor camp and climbed up the ranks to become the XVIII Airborne Corps command sergeant major.

"During my military career no Soldier has been more fortunate than I," Gaweda said. "Fortunate to have served under commanders whose faith, pride, courage and self-confidence motivated me and in the process showed me what leadership at its best could be. Fortunate to have served with soldiers whose toughness, combativeness, discipline and pride in themselves and their units awed me, and whose loyalty and friendship humbled me.

Today, Gaweda still lives for the 82nd at the age of 78. Every time the division has a four-mile run he participates and hasn't missed one since 1986. He also serves as a board member of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation in Fayetteville. This dedication shows how much he really does "Love America."

Page last updated Mon September 24th, 2012 at 20:50