Thursday, October 17, 2002

On Active Duty: Pfc. Justin Wesley

Published in the Current

Private First Class Justin Wesley is serving in the U.S. Army in Korea as a rocket launch specialist. A recent graduate of Cape Elizabeth High School, Wesley studied engineering at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania for two years before enlisting in the Army, originally with the intent of studying foreign languages, according to his parents, Maurice and Sylvia Wesley.

In January, 2001, he signed up with the Army and went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and then advanced infantry training at Fort Sill, Okla., where he decided to enter the artillery, despite having aptitude test scores good enough to get into the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.

After Fort Sill, Wesley went to Korea, where he has been since. Life has changed since Sept. 11, his parents said. Where previously soldiers were out in the field for three or four days at a time and then back at their bases for a week or more, now they are out in tents for 10 or more days at a stretch, followed by less time at the base before more field time.

That field time can be very difficult, his parents said, because of the cold weather in Korea. “They had snow before we did,” Sylvia said.

She said his letters home indicate that he’s not entirely happy with what he’s doing, but is growing up and having opportunities he might not otherwise have.

“The military takes you places you never would get to go,” Maurice said. It also leads to experience and leadership opportunities that can help open doors after the military, he said. Maurice said he hopes his son will decide to pursue higher education again when he returns.

Wesley is nearing the end of his tour and will shortly be on his way back home on leave. He will stop in San Francisco to visit his sister, and then will stop at Lehigh to see friends before coming back to Cape Elizabeth for a visit before heading back to Fort Sill for his next assignment.

He has three more years to go and may change his specialty and stay in, but his parents aren’t sure what will happen. They look forward to seeing him soon, as well as the deluge of friends that come over anytime he is home.