Volunteers Are Best Of American Spirit
The concept of volunteering is very largely unique to the American mindset and seems to stem in part from our conception of ourselves as an independent people. Alma Powell, wife of retired U. S. Army General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell once related a story of how at one post overseas where her husband had been stationed, she and several other wives of American military men started a nursery school, to the surprise of the locals- the government did that, they said. That a group of determined individuals could come together and together in some measure take control of their own destiny was a totally alien concept.
Volunteering also lets some of the finest elements in ourselves and our society emerge.
Nicholas Pekearo, a 28-year-old bookstore clerk and aspiring writer, and Yevgeniy (Eugene) Marshalik, a 19-yearold student at New York University, walked a beat in Greenwich Village as auxiliary police officers in the Sixth Precinct. And besides their both wearing the uniform of New York City Auxiliary Police Officers, both shared a desire to give back to the city they felt had given so much to them. Pekearo, one source said, had seen his Village neighborhood through an era when crime seemed to be out of control and now in a time of relative ease, wanted to help others. Marshalik came to New York City from Russia with his family as a child of six. A star of the debating team at Stuyvesant H.S. and a good student at NYU, he sought to serve the people of New York City by becoming a prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney's office. Like Pekearo, he saw joining the Auxiliary Police as a way to give back- to repay a city and a society that, he felt, had given him the opportunity to be the best that he could be.
As is the case with most things in this life, volunteering is a noble calling, but carries a price. Volunteers, whatever it is that they volunteer for, are not paid for the time and effort they expend. Volunteering can cost in other ways as well. Pekearo and Marshalik were walking a beat in Greenwich Village last Thursday night when they were gunned down by one David Garvin, who had just shot a waiterbartender at a Village restaurant. Garvin put 15 slugs in Woodside resident Alfredo Romero's back and then executed the two Auxiliary Police as they shadowed him and kept regular officers informed of the situation. Despite the fact that Pekearo was wearing a bulletproof vest- one that he had paid for- Garvin still put three bullets in his torso. Garvin executed Marshalik with a single shot to the head.
Auxiliary officers carry only radios and batons. They are not required to put themselves in harm's way. The spirit of volunteerism in both men, however, led Marshalik and Pekearo to put themselves at risk. Their actions may well have prevented more deaths: their forcing Garvin to concentrate on them kept the crazed gunman from seeking other innocent victims.
Pekearo and Marshalik exemplified the highest traditions of the American volunteer spirit. It was only fitting that both were buried with high police honors. May the earth rest lightly on their generous and compassionate hearts. And may the spirit of volunteerism that ran so strong in each of them continue to grow and flourish. It is what makes us as Americans unique in the world and what will continue to make us a great nation, despite the psychopaths and evildoers within and without. As long as the American volunteer ethos prevails, so, too, will the forces of good will.