Roadside bomb claimed Marine from Bensenville
Dawid Pietrek was a Polish immigrant who went to war for the U.S. to help fulfill his dream of becoming a citizen and police officer.
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff
He died for a country that was not his own but, according to those who knew him, did so with pride and honor.
The 24-year-old Bensenville man was killed Saturday along with three fellow Marines in a roadside bomb attack in southwestern Afghanistan in Farah Province. The rifleman went overseas only months earlier after entering the service in June 2007 and completing basic training.
Pietrek and four other Marines were returning to their base after escorting a group of engineers to another location when their armored Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb.
Four of the Marines were killed, including Pietrek; the fifth Marine was critically injured, said Marine Sgt. Marlon Martin.
The Marines were on a routine mission supporting combat operations in western Afghanistan. Pietrek's battalion of roughly 1,200 Marines and Navy sailors were deployed to the area in early April.
Martin said the battalion's mission was to provide security and training for the Afghan National Police in an effort to extend the influence and authority of the national government to the area.
"The only other thing I will add is that we are truly saddened by this tragic event and we share this loss with the families and friends of our beloved brothers," Martin wrote from Afghanistan. "The ultimate sacrifice they have paid serves as a constant reminder of the dangers that lie ahead as we strive to bring peace and prosperity to the Afghan people."
Pietrek is survived by his parents and a young sister, who live in his hometown of Police, Poland.
"I loved him so much. He was like my son," said Janina Filleborn, who hired Pietrek about four years ago when he came to the U.S. to work as a caregiver for the homebound elderly.
"This is a terrible shock for me. Dawid was the best. He was smart and kind and worked so hard."
She said Pietrek came to the United States on a green card when he was about 21. In July 2005, he moved in with Bill and Joanne Rohn and their three children in Elmhurst. The young man took care of Joanne's elderly father until he died in February 2006 at 88. Pietrek's uncle also stayed with the couple a short time while the young man returned for two months in late 2005 to Poland to finish a medical class. The relative e-mailed the Rohns Sunday with the tragic news.
"He was always so respectful," Joanne Rohn said. "He always called us Mr. and Mrs. It took months for me to get him to call us by our first names."
Added Bill Rohn: "He was kind of shy at first when he got here and then he opened up and became part of our family."
The couple said Pietrek dreamed of a military career, a college education and becoming a police officer. He also wanted to become a citizen, which they said likely spurred his decision to enlist.
Many immigrants join the military as a way to speed up naturalization. More than 35,000 resident alien servicemen and women have been naturalized since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the federal government's citizenship Web site.
Joanne Rohn said she was putting together mementos of Pietrek's time with their family to send to his mother, "to give her some sense that it was worth something."
Pietrek worked for another family afterward, also in Elmhurst, and eventually rented an apartment with his uncle for a short time in Bensenville.
Killed along with Pietrek were Sgt. Michael Toussaint-Hyle Washington, 20, of Tacoma, Wash.; Lance Cpl. Layton Bradly Crass, 22, of Richmond, Ind.; and Pfc. Michael Robert Patton, 19, of Fenton, Mo.
• Staff writer Jake Griffin contributed to this story.