As America celebrates its independence today on the Fourth of July, beyond the picnics and fireworks we remember that our freedoms came at a price, thanks to those who were placed in the front lines in defense of our country.

Those servicemen and servicewomen are found in our neighborhoods and across the globe with the mission of ensuring that the freedoms we have are never taken away.

Over the years, many of us likely spent time in service to the nation. Those who chose a uniform did so for varying reasons and what they learned from the experience and how it was applied in their future life is also as wide-ranging and varied.

One such person is Amy Pietrowski, an attorney you may likely see in the DeSoto County Courthouse in Hernando at work representing clients on a variety of issues, from criminal defense, DUI and traffic offenses, to family law.

Pietrowski came to the legal profession in a roundabout journey that started from a troubled childhood that spurred herself to be a better person and help others.

Pietrowski is a veteran of the Marine Corps, which not only provided her with the chance to serve her country, but also to gain the life skills that eventually directed her into the law profession.

“I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to propel my life into a different direction,” Pietrowski said. “I had grown up in a childhood where I was taken from a bad home environment of neglect or abuse and put in foster care where I was for several years and finally adopted at age six. It wasn’t the most loving environment growing up so I wanted to change the direction of my life.”

It was through the Marines that Pietrowski learned what she felt she needed to rise above her troubled upbringing.

“The Marine Corps had a lot of good skills in it, a lot of leadership traits and could teach you how to be a better person that could cultivate what you have in you and make it better,” she said. “I wanted to change my life and my direction.”

Her training went from boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina and communications school training at Twentynine Palms, California before becoming a non-commissioned officer in charge of message and data traffic with a top-secret clearance for her work.

While not put into combat, Pietrowski was involved stateside in the first Persian Gulf War, although she had other deployments overseas during her time with the Marines.

“I got to go to other countries and see the world,” Pietrowski said. “I got to see with so many countries that they had more poverty and less opportunity to advance and excel. I learned to appreciate this great country and all that it offers,” adding, “You can be born into a family with nothing and if you dig your feet into the ground you can become something. Success is personal and to each person a different definition.”

Among her deployments was time spent in Okinawa, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines. Reaching the rank of corporal, Pietrowski was honorably discharged after four years of service and earned a degree in psychology from the University of Mississippi.

“I think my background in childhood inspired me to want to help people and get involved in social work,” Pietrowski said. “Through that avenue I understood that people see that they are responsible for, maybe not the past, but what direction they take in the future. Their mindset and attitude can change how they feel and how they move and go forward.”

Time spent raising two children was followed by her hire as a FEMA crisis counselor in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and teaching in Jackson-area schools.

Her work resulted in the realization that she could also help people in the legal profession, and Pietrowski began studying for her law degree at age 40.

“I started seeing some of the people I was helping were stuck in legal issues from bad choices and bad consequences,” Pietrowski said. “I’m more focused on appreciating the person and maybe how outside circumstances influence them with the legal issue they are having.”

Her background in the military, teaching profession and Pietrowski’s social skills today aid her as an attorney.

“What I’ve done has also helped me as an attorney help my clients help themselves,” Pietrowski noted. “I can’t do it alone. We need to do it as a team to get the best defense and move forward in their case.”

As fireworks light the sky tonight and we take a day off from work to relax and enjoy the Independence Day holiday, Pietrowski hopes that Americans come together and move past the political turmoil and societal division.

“We should come together on this one great day as a nation and remember what America stands for,” Pietrowski noted. “It’s the bravery and the courage of people that fought from the beginning and inception of this country for our freedom, for our liberty, so we can pursue happiness in all of those things.”

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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