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Kosovan refugee joins Royal Marines
A refugee from Kosovo who witnessed the arrival of the Royal Marines in his war-torn country has achieved his boyhood dream of joining their number.
Arben Islami was 14 when he saw the Royal Marines enter Kosovo in 1999 as part of Nato efforts to end Slobodan Milosevic's persecution of ethnic Kosovo Albanians.
After fleeing Kosovo and settling in the UK, 14 years later the refugee has now taken his place among the green berets as a reservist.
Marine Islami, now 28, was granted British citizenship in July 2012 and has now joined up as a Royal Marine reservist, passing out as a commando in January.
He said: "As children we saw the marines in Kosovo and I knew I wanted to be one of them. Then I fled and came to the UK.
"I didn't have the intention at the time as I was only just a young kid but when I got indefinite leave to stay here and became British I knew I had to.
"I wanted to join up and give something back to the country that helped me so much."
Marine Islami fled Kosovo shortly after first seeing NATO troops arrive, hoping to reach an uncle he had heard about in the UK.
When he arrived in the UK he was placed into foster care, and went on to learn English and settle in Birmingham. He has not been back to Kosovo since, and has no plans to return.
The day after he was granted British citizenship in July 2012, he joined the 350-year-old Marine Corps.
But after 10 weeks of training at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon, he proposed to fiancee Anita and decided to change his plans to become a Royal Marines Reservist while working as a bricklayer.
Some 18 months after he first started training, Marine Islami, who is now married, undertook the notoriously difficult Commando Course, and went on to successfully complete the four Commando tests which culminate in a 30-mile speed march across Dartmoor.
He said: "I'm very honoured to be part of the corps, and I just can't express my happiness enough. I always knew it was going to be a challenge, that I would be pushed to my limits and that is why I wanted to join.
"It is a huge privilege, particularly coming from another country, to join the Royal Marines because they are one of the best forces in the world."
Marine Islami will now resume his work as a bricklayer and continue to train with the Royal Marines Reserves. He also hopes to deploy with 3 Commando Brigade, the UK's amphibious infantry, in the future.
Now settled in the UK as a British citizen, he said he looked forward to a promising future with his family
"You've got so many opportunities in England it would be a shame to waste them," he added. "You can be anything you want."