Pakistani Marine ;'this is the country I call home'
By Cpl. Ethan E. Rocke
| | October 04, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Militant Muslim terrorists learned to fly the planes used in the Sept. 11 attacks at an aviation school in Florida. The discovery that the United State's most hated villains learned in America's backyard the skills necessary to carry out their malicious attack haunted Americans after Sept. 11.
Today, a Pakistani-born Muslim man who also attended aviation school in Florida is helping to clear the haze of stereotypes and racial profiling, which has hovered over America since that horrific day.
PFC Shahid Aziz, Plt. 1098, Co. A, said he joined the Marine Corps after evil men with distorted ideals shattered his dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot.
"Sept. 11 basically ended my dreams of being a pilot because of all the racial profiling that came from the incident," said the soft-spoken 27 year old.
Aziz moved to Fort Worth, Texas, from Pakistan in 1997. A short time later, he attended Com Air Aviation Academy in San Ford, Fla., where he received his instrument grading.
The study of flight was nothing new to Aziz. After earning a Bachelor's of Commerce Degree from Punjab College in Pakistan, he got his private license to fly and passed the commercial written exam.
After studying both accounting and aviation in Pakistan, Aziz chose to pursue a career in aviation when he moved to the United States. Before Sept. 11, he had been working as an instructor at Pro Aircraft Flight School in Texas on and off for four years.
Aziz was scheduled Sept. 12, 2001, to begin another aviation course on his way to becoming a pilot. When all flights were grounded on Sept. 11 by the FAA so were Aziz's plans to become a pilot.
Soon after the shock of Sept. 11 subsided, Aziz decided to focus his energy on a new goal. He decided to become a U.S. Marine.
"This is the country I call home," said Aziz. "I wanted to defend my family and our way of life. I wanted to contribute what I can."
Aziz said his wife was shocked and scared for her husband initially because of all the hostility towards Muslims, but now she is proud of what he is doing.
Aziz arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, in April 2002. He stepped onto the yellow footprints anxious to begin the training that would give him the title U.S. Marine. However, unlike most Marine recruits, he would not be home 13 weeks later. About a month into his training with Co. C, Aziz shattered his jaw.
"I spent two months at Balboa Naval Medical Hospital with my jaw wired shut, living on a liquid diet," said the Marine. "My family was not allowed to visit; so trying to cope and stay motivated in the hospital was the hardest part of recruit training."
Although his family was not allowed to visit him, Aziz did have one persistent visitor at Balboa who helped him focus on his goal of becoming a Marine.
"My first senior drill instructor, Staff Sgt. Rivera, visited me quite a few times to check on me. He showed a genuine concern," said Aziz.
Upon release from Balboa, Aziz was assigned to the Medical Rehabilitation Platoon for one month. Where he said the MRP recruits relied on each other for motivation and encouragement.
"My time at MRP was motivating. The drill instructors take care of you, and the recruits help each other through," said Aziz. "When you're broken, you suffer and make sacrifices other recruits don't have to make. That forms some pretty strong bonds."
When Aziz's rehabilitation was complete, he picked up his training with Co. A more motivated than before, according to Aziz.
"After he broke his jaw, he came to us from Charlie Company, and he's really excelled since then," said Sgt. James P. Gillespie, senior drill instructor, Plt. 1098, Co. A. "He's an outstanding recruit. He was one of two recruits from my platoon to get a noteworthy on the battalion commander's inspection for having an immaculately maintained weapon."
Aziz said he is glad to be a part of the Marine Corps, an institution where strong bonds are commonplace.
"I joined the Marine Corps because I believe in brotherhood, working as a team, and looking out for each other," he said. "I like the fact that Marines don't leave their brothers behind; all we see is green."
After he completes his training to become a motor transportation mechanic, Aziz will probably return home to Texas as a reservist. There he will continue to fight his own battle against racial profiling, he said.
"I want to try to prove that not all Muslims or Pakistanis are bad," said Aziz. "A few people give a whole country or group a bad name."
After six months at MCRD San Diego, Aziz is finally a part of a new group. He has earned the title Marine, and he said the trials and tribulations he experienced along the way gave him a renewed respect for American freedom.
"Boot camp makes you appreciate freedom even more and not take anything for granted, even the little things," he said.