Mother's letter helps tell Marine's story
Dawid Pietrek was a young Polish immigrant who died an American hero.
The 24-year-old DuPage County man was killed Saturday with three other Marines while returning to their base when their Humvee was blown up by a roadside bomb in the worst single attack this year on U.S. or coalition forces in Afghanistan. A fifth Marine was seriously wounded.
Though Pietrek died for a country that was not yet his own, his mother back in his native Police, Poland, said she accepts the tragic loss of her only son because he felt so strongly about his decision to serve.
In an e-mail she penned in Polish to family and friends, including the Daily Herald, his mother asked that his sacrifice not be forgotten.
A rough translation of Dorota Pietrek's note suggests that she understood that fighting a war for another country was Dawid's choice, something he had to do.
Dawid Pietrek came to the U.S. at about 21 on a green card with dreams of going to college and becoming a police officer. A trained medical caregiver, he lived with two Elmhurst families while helping with their elderly family members. He enlisted in June 2007 with the hope of expediting his citizenship.
Dorota also shared undated correspondence she received from Dawid in which he wrote of the threat of roadside bombs and land mines. Pietrek, though, told his mother and younger sister not to worry because "I'm watching over myself."
In July 2005, Dawid Pietrek 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.
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. They described their houseguest, who quickly became part of their family, as respectful, kind and self-assured. They last saw him around Christmas, when he stopped by their home in full uniform.
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 for a short time in Bensenville. Though he was not in the U.S. that long, his impact was profound.
After news of his tragic death spread, dozens of fellow Marine families reached out to the Daily Herald or left heartfelt messages on military blogs inquiring whether a funeral with military honors will be held in here. So far, nothing has been planned. The American Red Cross also is getting involved.
Thousands of miles away, in Poland, Dorota Pietrek asked that those in the country her son adopted as his own remember him, too, as one of their own.
"Thank you for keeping him in your hearts and your minds," she wrote.