The U.S. Marine Corps’ reputation is one of an elite fighting force. Its history of tenacity, ferociousness and winning battles is known, not just throughout America, but the world.
That proud history has not only influenced many young American men and women to join, but it has also inspired people from around the world.
Sebastian N. Czyz, a Poznan, Poland, native, has dreamt about joining the Marine Corps since he was 13 years old. His dream became a reality this year
Czyz has always been interested in the military. As a young boy he was in the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association where he learned shooting, patrolling, leadership, team work and problem solving. This organization is similar to the Boy Scouts, but with historical roots in Polish paramilitary operations during World War II.
“We were much more military focused,” said Czyz. “It’s a great organization.”
While in the scouts, Czyz read an article about U.S. Marines in a Polish military magazine. He even met a Polish-American who told him all about the Marine Corps and its elite status among U.S. Military services.
At age 13, he began working at a Polish military surplus store, where he coveted American military items and where he met many Marines who were in the country for training and NATO operations.
“A Marine even gave me his Green Monster (a book of Marine Corps knowledge issued during recruit training) so I could begin studying for the Marine Corps,” said Czyz.
When Czyz graduated high school in 2006, Poland still required a nine-month mandatory period of military service. Czyz volunteered for the Polish Navy where he could choose his job and duty station. He chose to stay around Poznan and become an anti-aircraft gunner.
Czyz said entrance into the Polish military is very similar to entrance into the U.S. military. There is a process similar to a Military Entrance Processing Station where applicants are checked for moral and physical disqualifiers before being sent to a two-month boot camp, which Czyz said is very different.
“There were guys who wouldn’t take it seriously,” said Czyz. “But there were some people who were very serious about it and NCOs who cared about teaching you.”
Polish Navy recruits were crammed into old Prussian military barracks where some rooms housed six, while others housed 20. Polish Navy non-commissioned officers would find themselves barking orders at a mix of people: those who had been drafted into service and did not care for military protocol and those who were eager to learn like Czyz.
During his time with the Polish military, Czyz helped organize and also participated in various NATO competitions.
“I think the best part about these competitions was working and hanging out with the other teams from our partner nations,” said John Cramer, a Columbus, Ohio, native who was a sergeant at the time with Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe. “Sebastian was one of the soldiers I saw and hung out with at most of the competitions. At the last one in 2007, he had a lot of questions about joining the Marines and what he could do to make it a reality. We talked a lot about Marine training and some of the things I knew about the recruiting process.”
After his nine months of service, in 2007, Czyz stayed in the Polish Naval Reserves, continued working for the military surplus store and started college so he could get his visa to come to the U.S.
It did not take long, and in 2008, Czyz was on a plane bound for America. He went to Raleigh, North Carolina and began working odd jobs around the state while he worked to achieve permanent residency. He moved from Raleigh to Durham, North Carolina where he met his wife Lauren James, and then moved to Wilmington, North Carolina.
In January 2015, Czyz finally achieved permanent residency and received his green card. Within 48 hours he was in a recruiter’s office talking with Sgt. Justin Walker.
“I found him to be sincere with everything he’s done and if being a Marine is his dream then I wanted to help him achieve it,” said Walker, a Wilmington native. “His drive stands out to me. He’s a hard worker, and he’s determined.”
Now 28, Czyz said he began to worry that he would never achieve his goal as he approached age limits.
“Since I've met him, I haven't doubted that he has the potential to make a good Marine,” said Cramer. “He still had some large hurdles to overcome. He has shown a great deal of commitment to reach his goal. Before, I think I would have been happy to hear he made it and that he earns the title of Marine. Now, not only do I want to hear that he becomes a Marine, I want to hear from him that he is the honor grad!”
Czyz raised his right hand and swore in his oath of enlistment on June 15. He plans to be in the infantry and is scheduled to ship to recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina in April. He hopes to stay in the Marine Corps for as long as they’ll have him.
“I’m so happy that I made it, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that I was finally accepted,” said Czyz. “I know it’s going to be hard, but that doesn’t bother me because I know I can get better things out of the Marine Corps.”