Staci Alyavilla knew she wanted to be a writer when she heard the recording of her grandfather’s WWII prisoner-of-war account. She had a dream for his story to be told in the form of a children’s book to help deliver a message of American pride and gratitude for our veterans and active military.
“It is so easy to take our freedoms for granted or not recognize all the things that are freedoms. I think this book really helps to reiterate our good fortune as Americans, made possible by those who serve,” says Staci. It is also important to Staci that, in sharing her grandfather’s story, the youth of America understand the sacrifices that were made for their sake by brave men and women who served in the military in WWII as well as those who still defend our country to this day.
Staci believes that a good story teaches a life lesson. It is her greatest hope that her book allows someone to see that, despite differences among the people in America, we should all feel united in our good fortune and celebrate the freedoms we have. She fears that it is easy to lose the value of the wars that were fought on our behalf and wants to create a tangible reminder through her writing.
When she isn’t writing children’s books, Staci enjoys attending stand-up comedies, theatrical plays and
concerts, as well as spending time outdoors with her husband and three beloved dogs. They live in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is Staci’s debut children’s book.
Staci Alayvilla, Author
On February 23, 1944, Steve Swidarski and 515th bomb squadron were scheduled with a routine task to fly in and out of Austria to bomb a ball bearing factory that the Germans were occupying to support their war efforts. Usually a waist gunner who controlled the weaponry along the side of the airplane, Steve's position changed that day when one of his crew members fell ill. He was tasked to a different position, a nose gunner at the front of the plane. As luck would have it for Steve that day, their plane was hit by the enemy and the crew parachuted to safety, or so they thought. The soul in the waist gunner position, his usual role, perished. The surviving crew members were captured on the ground by the enemy and marched to a prison camp.
Steve Swidarski lived through his 14 month harrowing WWII captivity and went on to live a long life of purpose and gratitude. In 2018, six years after he passed away, a recorded interview of Steve was found, conducted in 2004 by the late Thomas A. Swope, a WWII historian as part of The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center which collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.
For more information about The Veterans History Project, and to hear the true account of heroic, Stephen Swidarkski, told by 'The Bearded Marvel' himself, listen to him retell the story here.