Editor’s Note: if you know a soon-to-be new recruit who’d like to be featured in CALLED, e-mail us.
I have mixed feelings about Memorial Day.
I will not take advantage of a Memorial Day Sale, and will avoid stores that advertise them as much as possible the rest of year. I have taken this stance since asking a shop owner what the veterans’ discount was and getting a blank stare in return.
Memorial Day parades baffle me. People seem really to get into the festive, carnivalesque atmosphere, but only a tiny fraction of attendees show up for the actual observance of the holiday at the town monument to its dead soldiers and sailors.
In the past few years, I have noticed that more and more cities and towns have adopted the morose municipal commemoration of its sons lost in battle — and sometimes still-living veterans — with the practice of hanging “hometown hero” banners on lamp posts along their main thoroughfares. These banners are like baseball cards of the slain, providing a photo of the deceased, their branch of the military, the war that claimed their young life, and date they were immortalized through blood. I have a lot of problems with these pennants, none of which have to do with the fallen, who likely did die a hero’s death. I’ll write about my criticisms another time.
We honor the uniformed dead with a day of remembrance, and it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. I believe that flags should be unfurled and that horns should sound. I believe that weighty words should be uttered explaining the value of their sacrifice. I believe that families who have lost a loved one should gather together in a way that might provide some comfort. I believe that families who have never waved to goodbye to a son or daughter as they shipped off to basic training should gather where they can witness the grief, sometime fresh, sometimes dulled with age, of their neighbors who have, in times of war, not knowing that it would be their final goodbye.
In our current times, however, and condition of increasing conflicts between nations across the globe, we must do more that produce ceremonies honoring the dead by reading out their names in a monotone dirge. We must, in fact, honor the living also. Young men and women are daily signing up for military service, some of whom will deploy to zones of active hostilities in faraway lands. They enter into their chosen branch of the military for different reasons, but one thing is almost universally true — their towns hold no public recognition of their induction.
Some newspapers may yet continue the tradition of publishing the names of young, freshly enlisted men and women. I have not seen such a feature in a long time. Many Americans don’t even know families who have a child who has shipped out, such are the fissures in our society. This ignorance must not be allowed to persist. We should know the names and faces of the members of our communities who have pledged their very lives to the protection of the rest of us whose safety is paid for by the service of others.
It is in an effort to correct this social oversight that The Greylock Glass is launching this new feature, “Called,” to recognize and honor those who, either despite, or because of their knowledge of the geopolitical hazards of the present, choose to make a future in uniform. We hope that an underrepresented community gets a small portion of its due through our new awareness of their willingness to take the oath of service
When I met Devin, he was a few weeks away from heading out for the U.S. Navy. I’d just about called it quits after a long day of driving Uber, and when I got the request for a trip up to Lake George, New York, I said to myself, “this has got to be about love. No one else requests a two hour drive at ten o’clock at night but a heart full of longing.”
And I was right. I usually am about these things. He’d made no real plan. Didn’t even bring a jacket despite the fact that it was minus 16 where we were headed. Just wanted to see his girlfriend as often as he could before he had to report, and she was with her family way, way up north. So, he fired up his Uber app just seconds before I’d planned to end my shift and switch off my app.
When I arrived at the pickup, I rolled down the passenger window and asked, “Deven? Why are we going all the way up to Lake George tonight?”
He responded, “Well, I can’t take my car, and my girlfriend is visiting her family, and…”
“Uh-huh. Just as I thought. Get in.”
We talked about everything under the sun in those two hours and change, but when he explained his enthusiasm for his big life choice, joining the Navy, the idea for this column took root. I asked him for an interview, and he was all in.
When I pulled up, midnight-ish, at his destination, a blonde little thing, about five-foot-two, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, hopped off the porch and made a bee-line for my boy. He made it about ten steps when she opened up her blanket like fleecy wings and threw herself at him, wrapping the both of them up in a snuggly embrace.
I put my Honda in reverse and tried to back out onto the road and pull away as quietly as I could. I still can’t explain the single tear that rolled down my cheek as I took a last glimpse in the rearview.
NTRVW: Devin Pekosz
GG: Okay, so let’s start again. What’s your name and where are you from?
Devin Pekosz: My name is Devin Pekosz. I’m from Pittsfield, Mass.
GG: Are you a Berkshire County native?
Devin Pekosz: Yes, I am.
GG: Born in Pittsfield. Born in, I think. Is it Cheshire?
Devin Pekosz: I was born in Pittsfield. I grew up in Cheshire. Went to high school at Taconic High School.
GG: Okay. And you’re you said you’re 19. Nineteen years old?
Devin Pekosz: Yes. Correct.
GG: When’s your birthday? What’s your birthday?
Devin Pekosz: June 30th, 2004.
GG: June. So you’re a cancer?
Devin Pekosz: Yes.
GG: So am I. We’re a great bunch.
Devin Pekosz: Yeah.
GG: Um, so you are heading out in five weeks to join the Navy. What, what prompted that decision?
Devin Pekosz: It’s kind of a weird situation. I have a really good friend. He’s a Marine. He’s in the Reserves right now. He’s going back to active duty in a couple months. We were just talking, coming back from a concert and he was telling me all about the different branches of military. And the Navy just stuck out to me. And then I kind of just decided that I wanted to join the Navy. And I talked to a recruiter about three weeks later and he got me situated really fast. And now even at five weeks.
GG: You come from a family with a lot of service members?
Devin Pekosz: Definitely. On my father’s side. Definitely.
GG: You said your father was…was he Army?
Devin Pekosz: He was Army. He was a parachute rigger.
Devin Pekosz: Yeah.
GG: Then cousins and uncles…
Devin Pekosz: …cousins uncles and great grandfather. Yeah.
GG: So this is…as far as you know, you’re going to be on a submarine.
Devin Pekosz: Yes, that is correct.
GG: Have you ever been on a submarine?
Devin Pekosz: No, never.
GG: Neither have I.
Devin Pekosz: Yeah
GG: But you don’t get claustrophobic, I take it.
Devin Pekosz: No, definitely not.
GG: Because you’re down there for extended periods of time.
Devin Pekosz: Yes.
GG: And you have to kind of get along with the guys. Do you find that you get along pretty well in tight groups?
Devin Pekosz: Yes, definitely. I feel like I’m a very likable person, so I just get along with everyone, no matter who it is.
GG: Well, that’s… I hope your your submarine mates agree with you.
Devin Pekosz: Heh, yeah, I hope so, too.
GG: Um. Do you have any concerns? I mean, obviously, there’s a lot of geopolitical friction in the world right now. Do you have any concerns about the the state of war and peace?
Devin Pekosz: No. I mean, if it happens, it happens. I’m just kind of praying that we don’t go to war. I mean I joined the Navy for a reason. Part of it is to help protect this country and serve this country.
GG: Well, it’s certainly something that fewer people think of doing as a career choice, but it sounds like you’re considering it as a possible career choice. Can you see yourself, you know, being perhaps even eventually going for officer training and staying in?
Devin Pekosz: Well, I mean, all depends on my first four years — how much I really do enjoy it. And maybe I will. And maybe I won’t pursue officer training and all of that.
GG: Now, patriotism is a funny thing because you can you can criticize your country, but you can still be fiercely loyal to it. I know you’re 19, so you don’t have a vast span of years to compare, but do you find that there’s patriotism within your, I guess, your Gen Z?
Devin Pekosz: Yeah. Um. Not too much, really. I mean. Everyone my age is just so, “I wanna be a rock star.” “I wanna be a pop star.” “I want to be an influencer.”
Devin Pekosz: Nothing that will really help our country in any way, whether it’s a trade, doing this service, anything along those lines…
GG: Things that contribute to the society?
Devin Pekosz: Yeah. No, they just want to do stuff that makes them happy, but not help anyone else.
GG: You said that your mom has been supportive.
Devin Pekosz: Very supportive, yes.
GG: How has your family and friends as a whole, how do they take your decision?
Devin Pekosz: They, um, they’re very, very 100% supportive. Just because of the past couple of years, everything that I’ve been through to now doing something important in my life. Just everyone in my family is very supportive and very grateful for me.
GG: Okay. And of course, you’re leaving friends behind and and even a little bit of maybe a heartbroken lady friend behind. How does she feel about it?
Devin Pekosz: Well, um.
GG: Does she understand?
Devin Pekosz: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Definitely.
GG: Do you think she’ll appreciate how you look in uniform? Do you think. You said that she’s a clotheshorse. But you’re only going to have like two outfits that you’re going to be wearing for a long time.
Devin Pekosz: Yeah.
GG: So do you think she’ll. She’ll. kinda swoon when she sees you in your blues there.
Devin Pekosz: Yeah. She might be into it. She might not be. I don’t know.
GG: So lastly, I guess you if you don’t stay in, What can you imagine the Navy doing for you at the end of the four years? What do you hope to get out of it? You know, even if you don’t stay in.
Devin Pekosz: Definitely a life lesson. I think that’s for sure. And I think that the Navy will definitely help me build more discipline and help in becoming a man. And I’ll just learn a lot more and be able to use that knowledge in to becoming successful in the future. That’s, I guess, the main things.