Fairfield grad saluted on military commitment
On Tuesday, Justin, 17, was honored by the Greater Fairfield Board of Realtors for following in the footsteps of his father -- as well as his grandfather and great uncle -- to serve in the nation's armed services.
The Greater Fairfield Board of Realtors' new program, patterned after a similar program in Cherry Hill, N.J., recognizes graduating Fairfield seniors who plan to serve in the military. Next year, graduating Fairfield seniors who attend service academies, such as the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy, also will be included.
Justin plans to join the U.S. Army National Guard when he turns 18 in July and will leave for basic training in January. Then he'll serve two weekends a month and go for advanced training for two weeks next summer. As a member of the Army National Guard, he will be on call to help in natural disasters and could be called to serve in wars overseas, as National Guard members were called to serve in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"If it happens, it happens, and I'm more than willing to go," Justin said of the possibility of being deployed to a war zone.
During Tuesday's ceremony, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, presented Justin with an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington and said people who serve in the military protect Americans' right to argue and disagree. "You don't know what the future holds, but you are saying, `I'm willing to do that too,' and that's why we're here," Himes said.
Arguing, and allowing everyone to say their piece, is a good thing, Himes said. He said while legislators in Washington argue quite a bit nowadays, the one thing they don't argue about is supporting the nation's military services. "We don't argue about that. Our veterans deserve [support]," Himes said.
First Selectman Michael Tetreau, whose brother, William, has served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the military protects America's ability to have elected leaders and to have discussions without going to jail. "Thank you for representing, not only your family, but our community and town going forward," Tetreau said to Justin.
Adrienne Bernstein, a member of the Greater Fairfield Board of Realtors, said the board has received support for its new program and that she's received requests from people in Redding and Shelton who want to set up the program in their towns.
Art Bernstein, Adrienne's husband, said young people who join the military too often are overlooked. "These people never get recognized. Never," he said.
Tetreau agreed, saying, "We've got to start recognizing folks on the way in."
Sam Magri, Justin's father, said he and his wife, Dana Magri, support their son's decision to join the Army National Guard "100 percent." Sam said the possibility that Justin could be called to war is "always a concern, but that's just something that comes with the territory. There's not much you can do about it."
Dana Magri said her son is "a leader" and "accomplishes everything he sets out to do." "He has goals. He knows what he wants, and I think it will be fine," she said. "I'm going to stand behind him and just hope for the best."
Justin said he plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice and later hopes to work in local or state police and then the federal Drug Enforcement Administration or Department of Homeland Security. "The Army and military will help me every step of the way to get there. Not only is it something I want to do, but it's something that's in the family and that comes with my background," he said. He said his grandfather served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and his great uncle served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam.
Justin said he was honored and humbled by Tuesday's ceremony. "It's just a great honor to know I have a town that is so welcoming and so helpful," he said. "I'm not one who's big on attention. I'm very humbled."
Bernstein said the Greater Fairfield Board of Realtors' program honoring graduating Fairfield seniors who join the armed services is the first of three related projects. Another will be to work with the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce to establish a program where Fairfield merchants offer a discount to those who serve in the military and the third is to establish a book that identifies local resources available to people who return to the Fairfield area after serving in the military.