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Sudan native finds life-long dream of freedom

By Lance Cpl. Robert W. Beaver | | May 11, 2007

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MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO -- Throughout his life as a political refugee in Central Africa, one Company L Marine has seen and heard stories about the United States Marines and the good deeds they have done for his region.

Private First Class Majhok Chaw, Platoon 3250, has spent most of his 24-year life traveling thousands of miles across four different countries by foot, searching for the same freedoms the Marines provided his homeland.

"The Marines have done a lot of good things," said Chaw. "I will never understand why some crooks would attack them. They fed and built wells for hundreds of innocent people."

Civil war has plagued Sudan for the last several decades. In 1983, the year Chaw was born, the recessed conflict between the North and the South was rekindled.

As the civil war continued, America’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, took refuge in politically unstable Sudan and began setting up terrorist training camps and torturing his native people, Chaw said.

Chaw said the atrocities Bin Laden burdened upon his people caused him to flee his home country, and account for  the deaths of all his immediate family members except for his sister, who is currently a refugee in Ethiopia.

"Being a refugee is tough and I’ll never wish that lifestyle on anyone," said Chaw. "You’re not welcomed anywhere as a refugee, especially the place where you were currently staying."

As a refugee, Chaw lived off little food and water daily. He lived in unsanitary conditions and was provided with inadequate health care.

He was also a part of a group known as the “Lost Boys,” which is a group of young men in Africa who lost their families and were forced to care for themselves.

In 1995, Chaw was given the opportunity to file for immigration to America through a United Nations refugee organization. According to Chaw, the administrative workers who screened and processed the immigration applications were often corrupt, which caused him to wait longer to be accepted.

Chaw remained determined and was accepted for immigration to the United States nearly five years after his initial request.

The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service provided Chaw with an airplane ticket to America, and supported him upon his arrival with a place to live and the finances to receive an education.

Shortly after he immigrated to the United States, the same man who had caused Chaw so much pain and suffering returned to his life.

"I left Sudan to escape from Bin Laden," said Chaw. "Soon after I got to America, he bombed the World Trade Center. I feel like he is following me wherever I go."

Soon after Chaw acquired his associate degree from Lansing Community College, in Lansing, Mich., he made the decision to join the Marine Corps.

"My friends questioned my reasons for joining the Marines," said Chaw. "They don’t know what I have seen. I’m from Sudan and have seen the suffering Bin Laden has caused on countless people. Joining the Marines is the least I can do."

Enlisting as an infantryman, Chaw wants to protect innocent people just as the Marines defended Central Africa during their presence in 1993.

“He wanted to give back to the country that accepted him,” said Staff Sgt. Jerry Grondziak, Chaw’s recruiter and a native of Vedford, Mich. “A lot of immigrants come through here but few join the military. For Chaw to fight for a place he is not from really says a lot about his character.”

Coming to boot camp was a culture shock to Chaw, but in some ways similar to his past. He said the mental stress that his drill instructors put on his platoon was similar to how it is to be in a warring environment. He said there is no time think and there are immediate consequences for moving slowly.

Chaw said boot camp was not easy and his commitment to helping others pushed him through training.

"Chaw was an outstanding recruit," said Sgt. Juan Robledo, senior drill instructor, Platoon 3250, and a native of Diboll, Texas. "He had a high maturity level and was always motivated when helping other recruits."

Chaw said his rough past has shown him that freedom is not free. He has lost countless native brothers and sisters during troubled times as a refugee, he said.

Immigrating to America has given Chaw the freedom he has been searching for throughout his life-long struggle. Today’s graduation places him one step closer to his burning desire to give innocent people what America has given him.

"America has given me the freedom I have been searching for my whole life," said Chaw. "Freedom is something worth giving your life for to ensure future generations have it."

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