Pittsburgh-area soldiers find old uniform to fulfill World War II veteran's wish

Brian Bowling
| Thursday, April 30, 2009

Two Army sergeants are on a personal mission to satisfy a World War II veteran's wish to be buried in his uniform.

Though he no longer has the Army-issued uniform he wore from 1941-46 as a tank driver in Korea and Japan, Sgt. Sylvester "Cy" Denne, 87, of West Mifflin is a step closer to having it re-created because of the kindness of Sgt. Will Foy and Staff Sgt. Mark Suckfiel.

The two visited Denne on Wednesday at the Kane Regional Center in McKeesport to present him with an Ike Jacket, a short coat that ends with a waistband, like the one he wore during the war.

"I think it's the nicest thing that's happened to him in the last 10 years or so," said Joane Kampas, Denne's daughter. Her father suffers from Alzheimer's disease, she said. "That's all he talks about, is being in the service."

Foy is an Army recruiter assigned to South Allegheny School District. Suckfiel is an Army reservist who teaches history at South Allegheny High School. They're scrounging up sergeant's stripes and the medals Denne earned to help fill out the uniform.

In addition to the jacket, they've provided him with a modern Army uniform and gray physical training shirt with "Army" stenciled across it.

Suckfiel, a combat engineer, said he found the Ike Jacket on eBay and bought it without noticing the price.

"Our uniform would be nice, but I figured the gentleman would prefer a World War II-era uniform," he said.

After the war, Denne became an electric furnace supervisor at U.S. Steel's Duquesne Works and managed St. Joseph's Cemetery in Duquesne. He grew up in a section of Duquesne that West Mifflin later annexed.

Foy, a tank mechanic, said he and Suckfiel heard about Denne's wish from South Allegheny spokeswoman Laura Thompson and set about searching for memorabilia.

"We're going to get everything," Foy said.

He and Suckfiel served in the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 but didn't meet until Foy became a recruiter at South Allegheny.

"This is the least that we can do for them," he said about older veterans. "They paved the way for our country."

Suckfiel said serving in the military transcends time.

"It's a brotherhood, and it's something that very few people do and even fewer understand," he said. "He's old enough to be my grandfather, but in a lot of respects he's my brother."

Kampas said her father understood the gift from his brothers-in-arms.

"He was just delighted," she said.

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