The Lynbrook community gave a hero's homecoming to one of its own earlier this month as US Army First Lieutenant Steven R. Liguori returned from a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan.
After stepping off a train at the Lynbrook LIRR station on Feb. 1, the 25-year-old soldier and Lynbrook volunteer firefighter received a warm reception from family, friends, fellow firefighters and village officials.
"We were so excited, we were like a bunch of kids waiting for Santa Claus," his mother, Liz said, describing the experience as she paced on the LIRR platform with her family waiting for her son to finally come home.
The excitement reached a new level when after waiting about 15 minutes, the train finally came out of the darkness with its bright white headlight and approached the station. The train stopped, the doors opened and First Lieutenant Liguori stepped out in camouflaged fatigues dragging his camouflaged colored baggage behind him.
His parents, Liz and Steve, and siblings -- Caitlin, Margaret, and Jack -- all ran to him. His mom was the fastest and the first to grab and hug him as the rest of the family surrounded them. Everyone hugged as other commuters smiled as they passed the happy family. Although there were some tears, Liguori had the biggest smile on his face.
Meanwhiile, Liguori's fellow Tally-Ho firefighters and their fire truck, were waiting at the curb below the elevated station. When Liguori and his family came down from the platform, they were met by the Tally-Ho firefighters, who blew the fire truck's siren and air horns to welcome him home.
The family got into the fire truck and Liguori rode the officer's seat back to the firehouse on Horton Avenue,where a party was planned.
As the fire truck turned from Sunrise Highway onto Horton Avenue, the firehouse street, a huge American flag hung from below the raised ladders of Lynbrook's Truck Company and a second ladder from the neighboring Valley Stream Fire Department.
As Tally-Ho rode slowly under it, Steven looked up at the lighted flag moving gently in the cold night breeze, and said, "Thanks guys," to his fellow firefighters.
Becaue he was holed up in a base camp in Afghanistan last year, Liguori had missed the 100th anniversary celebration of the Lynbrook Fire Department's Tally-Ho Engine Company 3. Liguori has been a Tally-Ho firefighter since 2005 and a junior firefighter before that. Lt. Liguori was commissioned in 2009 upon graduating from Fairfield University.
Although Liguori was unable to attend the anniversary festivities, he did send an American flag that had flown on a Predator Drone in a mission above Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. That flag was presented to the company by Steven's father, Steve, who is also a member, and his mother, at the anniversary dinner. The photo of that presentation appeared in the January/February edition of The Volunteer Firefighter.
"We always knew Steven would go into the military ever since he saw my brother, who was in the Marines, come home from the Persian Gulf war," his mother said.
On Dec. 2, 2012, while Liguori was stationed with Forward Operating Base at Jalalabad Airfield, part of HQ, 427th Brigade Support Battalion, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and with only two weeks left in country, his base was attacked by a vehicle borne IED and multiple insurgents wearing suicide vests who attempted to gain entrance into the compound. The soldiers were able to repel the attack as the insurgents exploded their bombs and themselves. Lt. Liguori, while leading his men in the battle to stop the intrusion, sustained a fractured left wrist. Other soldiers were also injured but no Americans were killed.
Liguori came back to the US from Afghanistan in January, but was sent first for further medical evaluation at the Fort Dix Army Hospital in New Jersey because his injured wrist was not healing. He is presently assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Dix, while the injury is being evaluated and treated.
On Feb. 1, with permission to finally go home, another soldier drove Liguori from Fort Dix to Penn Station, where he caught the train to Lynbrook.
As the fire truck came down the street that night a large crowd of even more family members, friends, neighbors, village officials, and firefighters, stood out in front of the firehouse waiting. As Liguori stepped from the fire truck everyone cheered and then each got a chance to hug, kiss, and shake his hand. Everyone went inside where he was also given back his firefighter's turnout coat. It was now time to party and celebrate a soldier-firefighter coming home.
Thank you, Steven, and all our servicemen and woman, especially those who also serve in the volunteer fire service. Let us never forget all those who have made the supreme sacrifice, including another of our own, Navy Corpsman and Tally-Ho Ex-Captain Jeffrey L. Wiener, who was killed-in-action in Iraq in 2005.