Second generation immigrant takes the challenge, becomes Marine to serve his country

Second generation immigrant takes the challenge, becomes Marine to serve his country

Ewa Perkowski (middle), her son, Pvt Dawid Perkowski (right), and Sgt Justin Wical take a moment to post for a photo at Marine Corps Recruiting Substation Reading recently. Perkowski is a second-generation immigrant from Poland where his parents knew a different meaning to military service. After some convincing from her son and an in-depth education about the Marine Corps' rich history and traditions from Sgt Wical, Ewa and her family could not be more proud of their new Marine. Photo by Sgt Damany Coleman.

HARRISBURG. Pa. - "It was hard for us, being from another country," said Ewa Perkowski, a Polish immigrant. "I didn't know anything about the Marines. My husband was in the Polish Army, but it was mandatory service. I never thought that he would join the military at all. Even though I wasn't always a citizen, he was born here. This was always his country."

Pvt Dawid Perkowski, one of Ewa's twin sons, completed Marine Corps recruit training recently. He and other recruits endured both physical and mental challenges and after 13 weeks of the hardest basic training in the armed forces, earned the title of United States Marine.

"Everything became like clockwork," said Perkowski, an Exeter, Pennsylvania, native. "You knew when lunch was going to be, you knew when classes were and you knew what training was coming up next. Still, nothing could really prepare you for the crucible, which was definitely the hardest part. It pushed me to my breaking point."

Ewa said that he has changed since graduation.

"He stands taller now and seems a little more responsible, but he has always been mature," she said.

Sgt Justin Wical, who recruited Perkowski from Reading High School, said that since their first encounter two years ago, Perkowski has always been motivated to become a Marine and serve his country.

"When I first spoke to him during the Summer of 2013, he was very enthusiastic," said Wical. "Even though he wouldn't turn 17 until that December, he didn't miss a beat when I called him again. He wanted to sit down and see what the Marines were about."

Wical said that he remembers sitting with Perkowski, who once had an interest in the Navy as well, until Perkowski discovered that five other students from his school were joining the Marines as well.

"He was always a very driven individual in the [Delayed Entry Program] and because of the friendships he made, he was always very supportive of the other poolees that would struggle," said Wical. "He's a very comical guy and always had something saved to make people laugh when physical training was hard or the weather was bad."

Ewa said that after speaking to Wical, learning about the history and traditions of the Marine Corps and having her son explain what the Marine Corps was all about, she was okay with his decision.

"I did not even know that he wanted to join at first," said Ewa. "The Marines kept calling my house and when I asked him why, he said he took the [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test]. He said he didn't sign any enlistment paperwork yet, but I told him I wouldn't approve. But because he was 18 already, I had to respect his decision."

Perkowski enlisted in the Marines to work in the intermediate aviation maintenance field is preparing to attend the formal school. He likes the idea of being able to work with millions of dollars' worth of aviation equipment someday, but he's also very excited about just being a Marine.

"People find out that I'm a Marine and look at me like I'm Superman," said Perkowski. "It feels like there a standard to uphold. I can't get in trouble, make bad decisions or even dress a certain way anymore. It's kind of like being a super hero. When do you see super heroes doing something bad?"

Ewa added that it may be a lot of responsibility, but it is a career field that young men and women – or their parents – would pay thousands of dollars to go to college for, just to get a chance to work in.

"I'm sure he's going to have a lot of learning to do," said Ewa. "He probably has to learn every part of the plane."

Perkowski said that being a Marine certainly is not for everyone, but for those who want to earn the title as he did, it is possible.

"If you put your mind to it, you can do almost anything," said Perkowski. "It's possible, you just have to put forth the effort. Now, some of my friends are even thinking about enlisting but they're afraid to. I just tell them about the transformation and how they'll be taught how to do things the right way, for the right reason, even when no one is looking."

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