Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Army sergeant comes home to Howard Beach

| mhayes@queenscourier.com


After nine long months deployed to Afghanistan, Sgt. Kristianpeter DiStefano is home in Howard Beach.

His arrival back stateside Dec. 6 was delayed two hours after his airplane seat was given away, said Ellen Buonpastore, DiStefano’s mother.

“He was dressed in full uniform, and they gave his seat away,” Buonpastore said.

But the sergeant was eventually given an escort to LaGuardia Airport, and DiStefano, 29, went to Lenny’s Clam Bar where he was greeted by family, friends and local elected officials. His mother said it feels “wonderful” to have her only son home.

“Now I’m going to fatten him up, make him happy,” Buonpastore said. “I’m very proud of him.”

This was DiStefano’s fifth deployment, but first to Afghanistan. The career-Army man was previously stationed in Iraq and Kuwait. DiStefano is scheduled to deploy again, this time for Africa at the end of January.

“He tells me, ‘Mom, I go back because now somebody else gets to go home and see their mom and their family,’” Buonpastore said. “It’s a brotherhood.”

The Army man didn’t always know he wanted to join the ranks, but after he did, his mother said he has come to love the job.

“He loves taking care of the younger soldiers,” she said. “A lot of kids are coming out of foster care and they have nowhere to go, so they wind up in the Army. My son takes them under his wing.”

“He’s a rough guy with a big heart,” she continued.


Firefighter saves lives from Afghanistan to Ozone Park

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Kathy Kmonicek

On his first day back on the job since returning from Afghanistan, firefighter James Denniston became part of a rescue team that saved four lives from a burning building.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, March 16, members of Engine Co. 285 were called to a fire in a three-story building at 110-10 Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park, where a 40-year-old woman and three children, ages 8, 7 and 5, were trapped. Denniston, together with Lieutenant Brian Santosus and firefighters Richard Faraci, Dennis O’Keefe and Jean Tanis, responded to the call by jumping out of their truck, grabbing ladders and bringing the family to safety.

Denniston said upon their arrival they saw people hanging from the windows and once the first hose was in operation, he and the other members rushed to help the victims. Together as a team, Tanis rescued two people from the third floor, O’Keefe helped a woman also on the third floor and Denniston grabbed a small ladder to rescue someone from the second floor.

Denniston was finishing up his overnight shift on his first tour back to his Queens firehouse. He had been stationed in Afghanistan for three months with the 101st Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard. This group, made up of four FDNY firefighters, was sent to over 50 missions, tending to wounded soldiers and saving close to 100 lives.

“It was the last thing I expected,” said Denniston in a statement about the “overwhelming” experience of the fire rescue on Saturday. “It wasn’t something that when I went to work after being away for a while I thought would happen.”

He also added that this rescue was unusual for most firefighters that work on an engine company because they normally focus on extinguishing the blaze rather than operating in rescues.

“It was a humbling experience for me to be back and part of such a good team,” he said.

All four victims of the fire were taken to Jamaica Hospital with minor injuries and the cause of the fire still remains under investigation by FDNY fire marshals.



Weekend Roundup

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Man dies after jumping in front of subway train in Queens

A man died Friday after jumping in front of a Queens subway train, sources said. The victim, who was not immediately identified, leaped onto the tracks as an eastbound No. 7 train barreled into the 52nd St. station at Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside about 1:30 p.m., the sources said. Read more: Daily News

Feds interview Calif. filmmaker linked to anti-Islamic movie

A Southern California filmmaker linked to an anti-Islamic movie inflaming protests across the Middle East was interviewed by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff’s station but was not arrested or detained, authorities said early Saturday. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was interviewed at the station in his hometown of Cerritos, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Don Walker said. Read more: NY Post

Two U.S. Marines killed at Afghanistan base where Prince Harry is stationed

Heavily-armed insurgents attacked a British air base in southern Afghanistan Friday, killing two U.S. Marines and wounding several other troops, U.S. officials said. Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, is stationed at the base on a four-month combat tour in Afghanistan. Read more: Daily News

Accused serial arsonist under arrest

A man accused of setting off 13 separate fires in Queens is now under arrest. Thien Dinh, 43, is charged with arson, reckless endangerment and burglary. Fire marshals say he has 45 prior arrests for burglary and property damage. Read more: NY1

Queens 18-year-old files $10 million lawsuit against city, alleging cops botched her restraining order

A Queens woman who was stabbed by her ex-lover is suing the city over claims cops failed to enforce a restraining order. Last June, Daniel Paguay, 21, attacked the 18-year-old in her Corona home, dragging her out of bed to a nearby grocery store, where he used her as a human shield before plunging a 10-inch knife into her back three times, police said. Read more: Daily News

Rescue crews conduct search off Queens for diver

Rescue crews took to the waters off Breezy Point, Queens on Friday night after a diver was reported missing that morning. New York City Police Department boats and personnel from the Fire Department and the Coast Guard scoured the area Friday morning. Read more: NY1 

Ozone Park company launches special cycles to benefit Wounded Warriors

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

When Sergeant Stephen Siwulec returned home from Afghanistan in 2004, he thought his life was over.

The soldier, who suffered injuries to his heart, brain, hip and back following a close encounter with an explosive device, assumed his future would consist of days spent on the couch, gaining weight and watching his life deteriorate.

Instead, the Long Island native joined a brotherhood of 20,000 soldiers, also injured in battle, called the Wounded Warriors Project. The organization, which provides assistance to former members of the armed forces, hurt in combat, encouraged Siwulec to stay active, enrolled him in school and helped him obtain his benefits.

“I don’t know if I would be here without the Wounded Warriors,” said Siwulec.

Now, one Queens company has decided to give back.

Worksman Cycles, the country’s oldest bicycle manufacturer and an Ozone Park establishment, has introduced a special series of merchandise benefitting members of the Wounded Warrior program. At least 10 percent of each vehicle’s purchase price will be donated to the organization.

The handmade bikes run between $400 and $600 and are available in three frames and two colors – Men’s Destroyer Heavyweight Cruiser and Women’s and Men’s Patrol Midweight Roadsters in either Hell on Wheels Khaki or Haze Grey. Each one is emblazoned with Wounded Warrior Project graphics.

“It’s kind of a ‘bad’ looking bike,” said Bruce Weinreb of Worksman Cycles.

The company was established in 1898 on the footprint of the World Trade Center before relocating to Ozone Park in 1979 and taking over a factory that previously made candles.

On Thursday, April 5, Weinreb, Siwulec and company officials toured the Worksman Cycles factory for the launch of the Wounded Warrior Project bikes.

Timothy Strobel, another member of the Wounded Warrior Project, also visited the bike manufacturer’s facility. Strobel, who suffered a gunshot to the leg in Iraq, has been a member of the Wounded Warrior Project since 2007. Strobel said the camaraderie shared between soldiers continues in alumni programs such as the Wounded Warriors is crucial to those formerly in the armed forces.

“They’re all your brothers,” said Strobel. “The real world is more dog eat dog.”

Inside the factory, Strobel and Siwulec watched every step in the process of creating the Wounded Warrior bikes — the welding of the metal pieces, the sprays of multi-hued paint and the attachment of its airless wheels.

Strobel and Siwulec found the process fascinating — watching the creation of a product, directly benefitting soldiers like them.


Army: Eight Charged In Death Of Manhattan Soldier

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Army: Eight Charged In Death Of Manhattan Soldier

The U.S. Army says eight of its soldiers are facing charges in connection with the death of a fellow soldier in Afghanistan. Private Danny Chen, 19, died in October. The exact cause of death has not been released. The Army has said he died of non-combat-related injuries. Five of the eight soldiers are charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide. Other charges include assault, battery, and reckless endangerment. Read More: NY1

Police: Brooklyn Teen Stabbed In Head Over Basketball Spat

A Brooklyn teenager is fighting for his life after police say another teen stabbed him in the head with a pair of scissors Police say the two teens got into an argument during a pick-up basketball game at Erasmus Hall High School in Flatbush. They say Alfredo Allen, 15, was stabbed multiple times in the head by the other boy, identified in published reports as Chevoy Nelson, 16. Allen was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Read More: NY1

Students’ posters aim to erase graffiti

Senator Tony Avella is aiming to erase any thoughts of vandalism from the minds of the students in his district – and paint them a clear anti-graffiti picture. The senator joined representatives from the Bayside Business Association (BBA) and students from across northeast Queens on December 15 for his first annual Anti-Graffiti Poster Contest. Read More: Queens Courier

NYPD Investigates Noose Found At City Parks Office

The New York City Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating after a doll was found hanging by a noose Tuesday in the Parks Department’s Bronx borough headquarters. According to Geoffrey Croft, president of the watchdog group NYC Parks Advocates, an African-American parks worker found the doll near his work space. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe says the department is fully cooperating with the investigation. Read More: NY1

Woman Snaps Picture Of Bronx Subway Flasher

Police are searching for a man they say exposed himself on a Bronx subway last week. Investigators say this man exposed himself to a 30-year-old woman on a northbound 6 train at the Buhre Avenue station Thursday night. The woman was able to snap a photo of the suspect. He’s described as being in his 30’s, about 5’6″ tall and weighing 175 pounds. Read More: NY1

IT geek’s apartment gizmo catches burglar in act

A computer whiz yesterday busted a brazen burglar at his Manhattan pad — all while sitting at his work desk six blocks away. Levent Cetiner, 30, an IT ace at the School of Visual Arts in Gramercy, had set up a motion-detection camera in his West 21st Street apartment that sends him real-time photos of his home by e-mail when triggered. Read More: New York Post