John Albanese was surprised when he opened the door of his Deep Creek, Fla. home Saturday two weeks ago and found Richard Young, his nephew who recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan with the United States Army, standing there.
“He caught me by surprise. I never saw it coming,” his uncle who served with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam, said a couple of days ago. “I’m going to do something special for you when I get home,” Richard told him.
Standing at his front door Richard had the “Something Special” in his hand. It was a folded American Flag in a display case with an accompanying certificate of authenticity which read:
“The Department of Defense and the Joint Provisional Reconstruction Team, Paktika FOB, Sharana, Afghanistan CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY.
“This is to certify the accompanying American Flag was in the face of the enemy over the Headquarters of the Joint Provisional Reconstruction Team, Paketika Forward Operating Base, Sharana, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Sgt. John Albanese
“This 24th Day of May 2011.
Signed: Sgt. Maj. Craig Coppidge, J.D. Cox, CMD USN, Commanding Officer.”
“When he handed me the flag and the plaque with my name on it it made me cry,” John said. “Marines aren’t suppose to cry, but I did.”
When Richard was growing up in Cambridge, Mass. John was the guy he came to.
“I use to listen to my uncle’s stories about serving in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War,” Richard said. “My uncle is a good guy. He’s always given me good advice and pointed me in the right direction.”
“To me Richard is a hero. He’s a responsible 24-year-old man who wanted to fight for his country,” John explained. “My nephew said, ‘We shouldn’t be over there in Afghanistan because they don’t want us there.”
“The same thing happened with us in Vietnam,” John explained. “But Richard added, ‘What I did over there I did for my country.'”
For nine months he served with Charlie Company, 18/1st. in Paktika, Afghanistan protecting a construction brigade constructing schools and other buildings.
“He doesn’t like to talk about the fire fight he was in protecting the constructing brigade. He was in a big incident over there,” John said.
Summing up his nine-months tour of duty in Afghanistan, Spc. Richard Young said, “I believe it will turn into a civil war over there once we leave the country.”
This story first appeared in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Dec. 26, 2011 and is republished with permission.