SHIR GHAZAY, Afghanistan - Lance Cpl. Jake Zalesky, a motor transportation operator with Support Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), was an avid lacrosse and hockey player in high school. He had the opportunity to attend college on athletic scholarships due to his talent, but he turned those chances down in order to join the Marine Corps.
His lacrosse coach, Brent Davis, served for four years as a Marine before taking on a coaching job in the Pittsburgh area. Zalesky was immediately impressed when Davis arrived at Chartiers Valley High School.
“He was a family friend from a while back and he graduated with my oldest brother,” Zalesky recalled. “When he started coaching lacrosse we just became real good friends. He became a mentor to me.”
Zalesky described how his initial interest in the Marine Corps was bolstered by numerous conversations and recollections with Davis, when he spoke of the camaraderie he had with his fellow Marines, the respect he earned through training and deployments and the people skills he acquired by working with Marines from all walks of life.
“I started talking to him my sophomore year, asking how he liked the Marine Corps,” Zalesky began. “He always gave me straight-up answers. He never tried to sell it to me, he was just honest.”
The inspiration went beyond verbal interactions. Zalesky seemed almost awestruck as he recounted the response that his teammates had when Davis first became their coach.
“When they all heard that Davis was a former Marine, we all thought we were in big trouble,” Zalesky said, smiling at the memory. “We came to respect him really quickly, though. We learned a lot from him. The respect he got on and off the field was amazing. I wanted that.”
Not only does Zalesky claim that respect was a driving factor in his decision to enlist, but he says that his inability to settle down or to follow in anyone else’s footsteps was the next biggest reason why he enlisted after high school.
“I hate doing things that everyone else does,” he concluded. “I figured I would make some money while everyone else lost it, and get some cool stories along the way. I wanted to have something to tell my kids and grandkids. I would rather be in the history books than just read them.”