*This particular article is dear to my heart. I decided to write about my cousin, Jeff Gavlik, mostly because I wanted to and can, but also because his service to the nation in uniform and out of uniform is significant in its own way. Not every veteran is a WWII hero or Vietnam veteran, some stories seem ordinary but there is nothing ordinary when a young man or woman raises their right hand swearing allegiance to God and Country, heading off into the distant unknown.
Thank you for sharing your story with me, Jeff. I hope I did it justice in 1000 words or less.
Jeff Gavlik is a local U.S. Marine Corps veteran and current Corpus Christi Army Depot employee.
He was born in Corpus Christi in 1984 to Mark and Angela Gavlik. At the age of 17, prior to his senior year at LaPorte High School, near Houston, he enlisted in the Delayed Entry Program with the Marines ready to serve his country. Following his high school graduation in 2003, Gavlik left for boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot-San Diego.
Once he completed his initial training, he headed to Camp Pendleton to attend Marine Combat Training, followed by advanced schooling at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. There he completed training to become a refrigeration and air conditioning technician.
“I wanted to be a combat engineer, that is what I enlisted as before my senior year of high school,” Gavlik said. “Except once I was closer to departing for boot camp, I was told that job was no longer available and I would have to settle for something else.”
Gavlik says he was frustrated by the job change from what he had really wanted to do, but he says he wanted to be a Marine more than anything so it did not change his desire to serve.
“I was really just proud to become a United States Marine, to make my mom and my dad proud,” he said.
In March 2004, he reported to 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.
During Gavlik’s time with 3rd MEF, he deployed several times with the Headquarters and Service Support Company, 3rd Engineer Platoon.
One of his more memorable deployments was to Thailand following the December 2004 tsunami that devastated the south Asian nation, along with many other countries in the region.
“It was a sad reason why we were there but it was great to see how our Marine unit could do its job to the fullest in a real-world setting versus training,” he said.
Gavlik says the unit set up the command operation center for 3RD MEF’s follow-on command elements so that once they were on the ground, they could lead the humanitarian mission and help the people of Thailand who had been beleaguered by the storm just days before.
“The MEF and the air base where we were led the relief aid operation in the area. A lot of construction I was doing helped to support the various units coming into Thailand to provide assistance.
“We stayed there in Thailand until the middle of February,” Gavlik adds. “While it was not a long deployment, the effort we put forth to support the mission of recovery for the people there was really rewarding.”
Other times when Gavlik deployed from Okinawa were on training missions to the Philippines and South Korea.
Each year, the Republic of Korea hosts two large, joint force exercises with American, and other countries forces. The contingent of American forces already present, plus more personnel that deploy into the country, creates some of the largest training exercises in the world.
Gavlik left the Marine Corps in 2007 after a four year enlistment, returning home to Texas. His mother, Angela, lived in La Porte still so he decided to move back home with her while he attended college for some time and work as an air conditioning repairman.
He decided to become a welder, as the profession had kept his interest for quite a while.
“I would have stayed in the Marines if they could have sent me to school to become a welder, but as re-enlistment options work, it just was not available at that time,” Gavlik said.
Gavlik then moved to Corpus Christi in 2009, taking a job as a welder for CCAD in 2012.
He says he feels really good working for the Army depot doing something similar to his role in the Marines: supporting the war fighter.
“Here, I get to work on projects that help the helicopter repairmen do their jobs better and more efficiently,” he said. “I also work on building infrastructure projects, maintaining or adding on to various metal projects within or outside of the buildings CCAD uses.”
Gavlik has two sons, Wyatt and Bryce, and married in 2016 to Sara, another Corpus Christi native.
“Coming back to the city where I am from, contributing to a mission that helps keeps our forces going in and out of combat; it is a good feeling and something to be proud of for sure,” Gavlik said.
He and Sara enjoy a lot of activities with their young sons, especially going to the beach or her parent’s lake house on Lake Corpus Christi.