All this Irish teen wanted to do was fight for America
Dean O’Neill, 17, from Drogheda, Co. Louth, wants to join the U.S. Army. It’s been a burning desire since he was a little boy.
“I always looked at the U.S. Army as a giant family, full of brothers and sisters who all work together,” Dean told the Irish Voice from his home last week.
Dean said he was affected by the happenings of 9/11, and although he was a young boy at the time he felt a deep calling to be part of the U.S. military.
“What happened at 9/11 really shocked and upset me and I wanted to help. I wanted to bring the people who caused this to justice. I remember giving my pocket money to our local firemen to send over to the FDNY,” said Dean.
However, he kept running into the same issue – the rules state that you must be a citizen or a green card holder to join the U.S. Army.
Dean wasn’t willing to give up, though, and hope came floating his way in 2008. He found himself sitting before a Marine at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin seeking information on how to join the army.
“I was advised a military summer camp might be a positive step towards my dream,” he said.
Dean’s overwhelming desire to be part of the army family led him to a website in the U.S. advertising a cadet camp in Toms River, New Jersey -- Cedar Bridge Military Academy -- that was willing to allow him to attend a five-week military training course.
The president of the camp, Steven Baryla, promised the young Irish man he would write him a glowing reference that would bypass the entry laws, allowing Dean to serve the country he always dreamed about.
“I came cross Cedar Bridge Military Academy. It looked to be the business for me, close to New York/New Jersey and easy to fly into, so we took it from there,” he says.
The Irish teen was ecstatic. “It was like a dream come true for me,” he said.
Dean’s father James immediately contacted Baryla, the man who described himself at ex-U.S. Army member who now ran the camp.
“I believed everything this man told us,” said O’Neill.
“He told me my son would learn so much from his camp, that he himself was ex-military. He even said he could get Dean into the army without a green card. That he could write him a reference and if he wanted he could get him into West Point College,” shares O’Neill.
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