Howell veteran finds new calling after Iraq war injury
Howell — Howell resident David Gorlewski intended to be a career soldier in the U.S Army, but injuries he sustained in Iraq derailed his plan.
After an emotionally perilous journey, the veteran found redemption in his career as a concealed-pistol license instructor and home defense consultant.
“It bridges the gap between who I was, the life that I can’t do anymore, and who I am and will be in the future,” Gorlewski said.
He spent the better part of seven years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Midway through his eighth tour, he was injured falling off a roof.
After returning stateside, physical limitations — he said doctors in Germany told him he would never walk again — made it hard for him to work any single job for long.
He said there was a time he struggled with addiction and homelessness.
It was not an easy journey back into civilian life for the injured veteran, who had gone through basic training and Army Ranger School before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks took place. After those attacks, he was shipped off the serve his country.
These days, Gorlewski teaches CPL classes to small groups and individuals, including lessons required by the state and trips to the shooting range.
Gorlewski utilizes his combat experience during home-security evaluations. He visits people’s homes to figure out “how to protect yourself if your house gets broken into,” for example, he said.
“I’ll ‘break in’ to find the loopholes,” he said.
He said giving home-security advice “is kind of like the opposite of raiding” a building during war.
He also consults people on what kind of guns to purchase, how to clean and care for them, and how to improve shooting skills.
He said he has also worked with private Montessori schools on active-shooter preparedness.
Gorlewski is entertaining the idea of how he might best reach out to men and woman struggling to adjust to life stateside after serving in the armed forces.
“Maybe a veterans’ group,” he said.
“I had armor up” from being a soldier, and “I was angry,” he said.
“You’re told to shut it down (in war) because you never know what you’re getting into,” which was “hard to turn off,” Gorlewski said.
After he got a medical discharge, Gorlewski said he wanted back in but would not have been able to pass the physicals.
Alcohol and pills were “to numb the pain, because my guys were still overseas sweating and bleeding,” he said.
There was a time when he was “fighting to get a spot in line for the homeless shelter,” he said.
Originally from Flint, Gorlewski made his way back to Michigan after living in North Carolina.
It gave him “a fresh start and a fresh perspective,” he said.
He said he had some success after moving to Michigan, getting back on his feet and meeting his wife.
In 2013, friends he made through a men’s Christian ministry group called True Pursuit inspired him to pursue his consulting business.
True Pursuit founder Peter Emhoff, of Dexter, said “Dave came in like a deer in headlights the first time,” seeking guidance.
“Now I learn a lot from him,” not just about guns but about life, too, Emhoff said.
Mark Freier, of Howell, said Gorlewski has turned into “a mentor.”
“The armed forces was his life, and that was taken away. I’ve watched Dave evolve from being armored up to seeking connection for his own emotional life and spiritually,” said Freier, who took his CPL course from Gorlewski.