MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Since 1775 the Marine Corps has taken young adults from the civilian world and transformed them into disciplined amphibious fighting machines known as Marines.
As these men and women begin to pick up rank throughout their careers, they mature to become well-rounded leaders known as noncommissioned officers.
Sergeant Jason T. Durkaj is a leader who remembers being a civilian and he remembers the reasons he joining the Marine Corps.
“I heard about the reputation of the Marines Corps and wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “People told me the Marines were the best so I knew that was the branch for me.”
Durkaj joined the Marine Corps in 2005 as an amphibious assault vehicle operator. Six years later, he is now a section leader with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, with three deployments under his belt.
“He’s a great NCO and a great Marine,” said Sgt. Philip Pekarske, also a section leader with 2nd AA Bn. “I deployed with him to Iraq in 2007 and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Along with his combat deployment to Iraq, Durkaj has also deployed twice with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, helping in disaster relief efforts during hurricane Katrina in 2005 and traveling the world to countries like Greece, Italy, Turkey and Dubai.
“My most memorable moment of the Marine Corps so far was when we went to Italy,” said Durkaj. “We went to Rome and I was in love with the culture and history behind the country. Rome was amazing.”
Upon returning from his deployment to Iraq, Durkaj married his high school sweetheart.
“Deploying is tough when you’re married,” said Durkaj. “When times get hard overseas, sometimes the only thing keeping you motivated is the camaraderie you have with the guys around you.”
While Durkaj is uncertain whether or not he will make the Corps his career, he loves being a Marine and is happy to be serving his country at present.
“I re-enlisted two years ago because I loved it, and in two years we’ll see where I am and I’ll make the call,” he said. “The Marines Corps has provided my family with a lot and I enjoy what I do, but I’m not sure yet if I want to make this my career.”