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Oak Forest Marine featured in TV series

Marine Sgt. Jeff Kurek with crew from National Geographic Zamindawar Afghanistan 2012.  |  Supplied photo

Marine Sgt. Jeff Kurek, with a crew from National Geographic, in Zamindawar, Afghanistan, in 2012. | Supplied photo

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Updated: August 23, 2013 6:23AM



U.S. Marine Sgt. Jeffrey Kurek once said he wished every American citizen could spend a month in Afghanistan to “open their eyes.”

That wish has been granted, as the National Geographic Channel brings the front lines to living rooms in a five-part series.

“Battleground Afghanistan” features the Oak Forest native and his fellow Marines of 2nd Platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. The series has been airing Monday nights in July.

It gives viewers a “look inside the latest chapter of the conflict in Afghanistan as seen by American Marines on the front lines of the war,” Kurek said via email from Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

The filming by the National Geographic crew took place in Northern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, during the summer of 2012. They wanted to capture “the day-to-day life of an infantry platoon of Marines in a combat environment,” Kurek said, explaining how his battalion was chosen.

“To see myself on the big screen is a bit surreal and kind of humorous actually,” he said. “It will be nice to have the five-part series to show future generations later on down the road. The portrayal is extremely accurate. National Geographic did a tremendous job editing it to what it is today.

“I am hoping the public has a clearer understanding of what the Marines do while taking the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan. Blame it on ignorance, but Americans seem to just believe whatever they hear or see on CNN or Fox News,” Kurek said in an email. “This series brings reality to your living room, up close and personal.”

National Geographic followed the Marines on a 15-day mission as they worked in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces to find and destroy Taliban fighters.

For his mother, Joyce Kurek, watching her son on TV is “very, very surreal.”

“To know all the danger that they are really in, to hear him speak so open and honestly about it ... that was something,” she said. “I know the names of many of the guys he is with, and now I was able to put faces with those names. I told my friends to look for the good-looking guy, but they are all good-looking.”

Jeff Kurek joined the Marines after graduation from Oak Forest High School.

“For his 17th birthday, he asked us to sign papers so he could enter (the Marine Corps) early. We let him know we support him 200 percent,” Joyce said.

After serving nine years, he likely will make a career in the military, she said, adding that Jeff will be deployed again in November for the fifth time.

“When these guys come back, many of them switch units so they can be deployed again. It was hard in the beginning, but we got used to it,” Joyce said. “It’s easier to deal with because he is doing what he wants to do.”

Jeff Kurek, now 27, said throughout high school he always wanted to join the Marines.

“Once 9/11 happened during my sophomore year, it was only a matter of time until I could enlist. A week after my 17th birthday, I was in the recruiting office with my parents signing the contract,” he said in his email. “I joined the Marines to challenge myself.”

Although he plans to stay in the Marines for 20 years, Kurek admitted that “my mind and body are quickly deteriorating due to the continuous deployments.”

As seen on the video clips on the National Geographic website, the men endure punishing heat, with no showers, no mattresses to sleep on and just rations to eat, all while protecting each other and being threatened by the enemy.

“You sky-dive, you bungee-jump, you do whatever,” he said in the National Geographic video. “Getting shot at and shooting back is just an adrenaline rush. It’s liberating. It’s awesome.”

It is no time for poor decisions, as Kurek said he always tries to stay “one step ahead.”

If every American could spend a month in Afghanistan, “it would open their eyes as far as what they take for granted back home,” he said in the video. “Even though the American economy is in a shambles right now, it still does not compare to what is going on here.”

“Don’t take your freedoms for granted. That is what I’ve learned thus far while in the Marines,” he wrote. “I’ve also learned there is an unexplainable bond between grunts as well as a camaraderie and brotherhood that will, in most cases, last a lifetime.”

Yes, they all miss home, Kurek said, and when they’re home, they miss the combat.

“By me doing my part, my family can drink a beer on the Fourth of July and swim in a pool. If I have to give that up once in a while, so be it. I’ll get my beer eventually,” he said in the video.



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