Sailing into a bright future

Bridesburg resident starts summer graduating from U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps boot camp

Proud American: Josh Blazejewski stands in his dress whites prior to marching in the 2017 Bridesburg Memorial Day Parade. PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER BLAZEJEWSKI

By Melissa Komar

Some teenagers kick off summer with a trip to the Shore or catching up on some rest and relaxation after finishing a long school year.
Josh Blazejewski spent two weeks completing challenging physical and mental training — by choice.
“It was a little tough, but challenging mostly,” Josh said. “It was a lot of teamwork with other recruits like me. We worked hard as a team. Our motto was ‘one team, one fight,’ so if one person was in trouble, we all took it on as a team, not one selfish person.”
On Friday, July 7, the 13-year-old Bridesburg native graduated from the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps program boot camp at Camp Pendleton in Virginia.
The NSCC is the senior program — for ages 13 to 18 — of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps, and participants complete a genuine military training program and learn the ins and outs of what a career in the military entails.
“It’s geared toward kids who are looking to have a military background in the future,” said Josh’s mother Jennifer. “And even if they don’t have any aspirations to go into the military, it’s team-building, it’s respect, it’s honor for your country. It’s all the good qualities you should probably have as a good American are built into this program.”
As a Sea Cadet, Josh follows military standards and studies from The Bluejacket’s Manual, the basic handbook for U.S. Navy personnel.
He meets with fellow Sea Cadets at his local division, the San Antonio LPD-17 Division, once a month and performs community service regularly including visiting veterans center sites and volunteering at the Bridesburg Outboard Club.
Josh has been interested in the military since he was 3 years old, according to his mom.
One of Josh’s first idols was his grandfather, Vinny Karcher, who was in the airborne division of the U.S. Army.
World War II was one of his favorite topics growing up.
“There were a lot of war heroes,” Josh said. “Gen. Patton is one of my favorite ones because he was also dyslexic and he made 4-Star general and worked really hard.”
Like Patton, Josh is also dyslexic, but he has never let his disability stand in the way of achieving his goals in the Sea Cadet program.
He gained the nickname, “The Determinator,” because he is so determined during drills, according to his mom.
His determination and dedication did not go unnoticed.
Last year, Josh was named League Cadet of the Year. League Cadets is the program for the younger participants, ages 10 to 13. Josh was recommended by the division’s lieutenant commander to move up to the Sea Cadets a year early because he was doing so well, hence his completion of boot camp this summer, according to Jennifer.
Josh will not complete boot camp again until he is 18 and chooses which branch of the military he wants to join.
From now until then, Josh will participate in trainings geared toward whatever branch in the military he might pursue, and he will continue to volunteer outside the Sea Cadets program.
For years, Josh has helped at Bridesburg’s American Legion Post 821.
Through the post, he met many role models including the founder of the Bridesburg Memorial Day Parade, the late Ed DuBeck.
He was so inspired by DuBeck that he brought his funeral prayer card with him last year to League Cadet boot camp and this year at Sea Cadet boot camp.

From l to r: Jen, Cait, Josh and Stas Blazejewski gather for a family photo at Josh’s graduation from Sea Cadet boot camp. PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER BLAZEJEWSKI

“When Josh was little, and still to this day, the veterans in Bridesburg have been very good to him,” Jennifer said. “They let him walk in the parade before he was a Sea Cadet, they let him volunteer at Post 821 and VFW Post 2. They let him get involved, and the veterans really took him under their wings and encouraged him and let them be a part of what they’re doing.”
Although Josh’s passion for the military runs deep, volunteering and participating in the Sea Cadet program hasn’t been easy.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Jennifer said. “It’s a lot of studying at Saint George and coming home and studying, and studying more. We know it’s a lot of work and we’re very proud of him. And this is something he has always wanted. This is something different, but it’s something he’s really interested in, so why not foster that?”
For Josh, boot camp was about staying sharp and serving his country, even if on a small scale.
“It’s important so you keep your military bearings, gain more tips along the way and meet other kids from all over the country,” Josh said.
With one more year to go at Saint George Catholic School in Port Richmond, Josh is mostly looking forward “to graduate” and plans to attend Roman Catholic High School.
From there, Josh hopes to apply his skills learned through the Sea Cadets program.
“I’m thinking about joining the U.S. Marines, but I’m thinking of a career I can still do related to that, but after,” Josh said. “Maybe a pilot or a police officer. Serving your community is what a good American does.”