Tag Archives: army

Army sergeant comes home to Howard Beach


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

PHOTO BY JOANN ARIOLA

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.

RECOMMENDED STORIES:

Students at P.S./M.S. 207 learn to ‘persevere’ through Wounded Warrior Project


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

One man’s story of perseverance left a crowd of middle schoolers captivated.

Brandon Trapp of the Wounded Warrior Project spoke to the middle school students at P.S./M.S. 207 Rockwood Park as part of a series of monthly assemblies meant to instill different virtues in the youngsters.

The school kicked off the year last month with the topic of respect. Two kids from each grade were awarded for showing respect “above and beyond” as their classmates cheered them on.

This month’s theme, perseverance, brought former Army officer Trapp to Howard Beach to discuss his deployment overseas, a crippling injury and his journey back to normalcy.

“I liked the idea of being a team and serving something bigger than yourself,” Trapp said of his Army beginnings.

In 2010, Trapp deployed to eastern Afghanistan, a site he said was one of the most beautiful, but also the most violent.

“Somebody in our battalion was fighting with the Taliban daily,” he said.

The officer, now a medical student, then recalled the fateful attack that ultimately sent him home. A rocket landed close to him on the field, and Trapp was thrown.

“I knew we had been attacked because I saw the smoke billowing up,” he said. “For the first split second, it didn’t hurt. Then the pain came.”

Trapp later learned he had broken his back. He said at first he couldn’t feel his legs, but after a fellow soldier assured him his legs were in fact still there, he thought, “Alright, this is looking up.”

His First Sergeant put his head against Trapp’s, yelled “We love you sir,” and the officer was transferred to a hospital in Germany, then to Washington, D.C. As he awoke out of a medically induced coma, the first image he saw was the picture of his Army unit — a “screaming eagle” on a black flag, which eventually was filled with signatures of friends, family, doctors and nurses.

Trapp suffered injuries to his femur, torso, left leg and endured extensive nerve damage.

“They weren’t really sure if I’d be able to walk again,” he said.

But the screaming eagle stayed with him through physical therapy, and a little over a month later he was able to take his first steps.

“I made a goal that I wanted to take that flag up a mountain,” he said.

A year after his injury, Trapp and a team of Wounded Warriors climbed Mount Baker in Washington, and while thinking about his own injury and his fellow climbers, Trapp made it to the top.

Trapp started medical school in August and is contemplating going into trauma surgery because he feels he can thank his own doctors by “being in their shoes,” and treating patients like he once was.

To the students, Trapp advised to “be honest with yourself” and “always be focused on what you can do to make a situation better.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Fort Totten under new leadership


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

The New York City Queens Recruiting Company at Fort Totten is under new leadership.

Major Brooke Brown relinquished command of the army recruiting company to Captain Michael Gallucci in a ceremony on June 7 at the army facility, marking the end of her two-year tenure.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to tell my Army story back home in New York,” said incoming commander Gallucci, who is a native of Long Island.

Gallucci has a bachelor’s degree in management technology from SUNY Farmingdale and has completed assignments as a Battalion Chemical Officer in Korea, a Transportation Platoon Leader and Unit Movement Officer in North Carolina, and an Arrival Departure Airfield Control Group Officer in Afghanistan.

Gallucci, 30, departed from his latest duty as the Commander of Tango Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion, in Fort Lee, Virginia, to head Fort Totten.

The new commander is a decorated officer with various awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Korean Defense Service Medal.

The ceremony was observed by members of the recruiting center and Gallucci’s family, and the outgoing commander had nothing but praise for her successor.

“He’s motivated and excited. He’s going to do great,” Brown said.

Brown will remain in the city, moving to the recruiting battalion at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, until December.

She plans to seek higher education in January, at an institution yet to be determined, to study System Engineering Managing Process.

“It’s exciting to move on to something new, but it’s sad to leave something when you feel there’s more to accomplish,” she said.

 

The challenges returning veterans face


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the IAVA

When Anthony Pike returned home from his first tour of duty in Baghdad in 2004 nothing was waiting for him.

For years he had worked in community affairs and wrote articles for newspapers while in the Marine Corps. He expected to work in journalism back at home, but instead he couldn’t find work anywhere and ended up taking a job hanging flyers and posters.

Many young returning vets find themselves in a similar situation after serving their country, according to Pike.

“It’s frustrating,” he said, adding that he finally became a membership coordinator last year for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America [IAVA]. “There’s no reason why a combat medic who served in Afghanistan shouldn’t have a certification to be an EMT.”

Pike, 30, of Astoria, said returning vets face the problem where employers don’t hire them, because they don’t have the academic documents to verify their abilities.

“It’s an epidemic,” he said. “It’s part of the reason why military unemployment is higher than civilian unemployment.”

Although he didn’t engage in battle, when Pike came home, he began suffering from nightmares and had problems adjusting, others issues vets have to deal with.

“I try to separate the two,” said Sean McCabe, a vet from Ozone Park. “Instead of waking up every day thinking someone’s trying to get you, coming back home is a relief.” McCabe, 28, said he was never diagnosed, but he faced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], in which sufferers have vivid memories of traumatic experiences. He credits his wife and his daughter with helping him overcome it.

“My wife has been the best,” McCabe said. “I could be in the darkest tunnel and she’ll walk out with me on the other side.”

He said many employers are also afraid to hire workers because they misunderstand PTSD, and the slim working availability makes him want to return to action.

“Not a day goes by where I think I wouldn’t mind being back there,” McCabe said. “I miss my guys and I was good at my job.”

To help vets get jobs and back to society, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder has drafted two bills.

Bill 9969 would enable veterans to take civil service exams at discounted rates, giving them access to more jobs; Bill 9872 would allow for military service to be deemed eligible credit for a high school diploma.

“In these tough economic times we got to give every person the opportunity to succeed and get back to work, especially the vets who put their lives on the line,” Goldfeder said.

McCabe, who supports Goldfeder’s bills, said there is a “positive shift” and pointed to the work of the Wounded Warriors Project and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, organizations dedicated to helping veterans acclimate to civilian society.

“It’s really come a long way, there is still more to do,” McCabe said. “But they’re making their way.”

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