Afghanistan is pretty much halfway around the planet from New Jersey, almost at the same latitude. Two worlds, very far apart, and not just in geographic terms. Vincent Camerota didn’t need to wear a bullet-proof vest here, or carry a weapon. But since January, Camerota has had to make both part of his daily routine. That’s when the Marine was deployed to Afghanistan.
Just about a year ago, we told you about Camerota’s long-time dream of joining the U.S. Marine Corps, and how it almost fell apart in a misguided moment that cost Camerota his graduation with the Verona High School class of 2008. He turned his life around, and in November 2009 headed off to boot camp at Parris Island. Basic training done, he moved on to Camp Lejeune and other Marine Corps installations. He trained for six weeks in the Mojave Desert and four weeks in the mountains of West Virginia, all leading toward an assignment in far less hospitable terrain.
Camerota isn’t the first soldier from Verona to go to war, and he is likely to not be the last. But in earlier eras, the military was a more visible part of town because the number of those who were serving was larger. Just take a look at the plaque that’s halfway up the stairs in Verona’s town hall. And the visibility problem isn’t only at home: Where it not for a difficult story on Afghanistan in Rolling Stone this past weekend, world news reports would be focused on a multitude of other trouble spots, like Japan, Libya Syria or the Ivory Coast. Some people have become so worried that the military has become invisible in our daily lives that they have instituted Red Shirt Fridays, a pledge to wear red on the final day of the work week until every American serviceman and woman is brought safely home.
Red is the color at the Camerota household on Fridays, where mom Cathryn Camerota must navigate the tricky path of every military mom. She revels in news that her son is making her gravy for his platoon buddies, but worries about his safety. Some 97,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. There have been 1,395 American combat deaths in that country and 10,122 soldiers wounded, many gravely. That compares with 4,408 deaths in Iraq since March 2003, and nearly 32,000 injured.
Cathryn Camerota believes it is important to support all these troops, and not just her son. “He has a family and a girlfriend to support him,” she says of her son’s long-time companion, Nicole Peloso. “But they need so many things. There’s almost nothing they don’t need.” If you want to send something to the troops, put it in a zip-top plastic bag and drop it off at the Camerotas, 18 Newman Avenue.
Wear red tomorrow, Verona. And if you have a message of support for the troops, share it in the Comments field below.
The Camerotas have shared these photos of their son’s deployment day.
A very heartfelt thank you and prayers for a safe return.
I have great respect for the determination and courage of this young man. I may not support this long war politically, but I have nothing but gratitude and praise for our soldiers, home and overseas.
So, what kinds of items could we include in those zip-lock bags that would be useful and/or fun for the soldiers?
Sending love and appreciation to all of our troops at home and around the world, as well as to all of our military families!
Thinking of Vincent always and praying for his safe return home to his family and friend.
Cathryn said they need “everything”, and that truly means everything, from basic supplies to fun.
Thanks to the Cammerota Family for sharing not only their story but their pictures as well. We are very proud of Vinnie and pray for his safe return daily. Love and respect to all the soldiers out there and the many families back home.
Vincent we think about you everyday! We love you & are awaiting your safe return. I am proud to say you are my nephew. Thanks to you and ALL YOUR BROTHERS!Your family is proud….