Remembering Steven DeLuzio, Killed In Afghanistan
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Twenty-five-year-old Sergeant Steven DeLuzio of Glastonbury, Connecticut, was killed in action in Afghanistan last month. His family and friends remember him as an avid sports fan, and as someone who was always trying to lift the spirits of those around him.
From member station WSHU in Connecticut, Craig LeMoult has this remembrance.
CRAIG LEMOULT: Mark DeLuzio says his son Steven was always moving.
Mr. MARK DELUZIO: He was riding a bike at 3 years, 3 months, with no training wheels - which is crazy. The funny part about it was, he was still in diapers.
(Soundbite of laughter)
LEMOULT: Here's Steven's mom, Diane DeLuzio.
Ms. DIANE DELUZIO: He was a fun kid. He always looked - you know, he's always having a good time, but he was fearless. And he - so, of course, I was always afraid because I didn't know what he was going to get into next.
LEMOULT: One of the first things anyone who knew him will tell you about Steven DeLuzio is that he loved talking sports. And his mom says he became a Yankees fan just because his father loved the Red Sox. He was co-captain of his high school hockey team, and won the state championship. And he proudly coached a Little League team that won the town championship.
Steven joined the Vermont National Guard when he was in a college cadet program there. In 2006, he volunteered to go to Iraq. Mark DeLuzio stands in his son's bedroom, flipping through a stack of old photos.
Mr. DELUZIO: That's Steve.
LEMOULT: He wore his dark hair short, and had a large tattoo of a crucifix on one arm. On his back, he had the Army infantry motto: Follow me. And his father says after his time in Iraq, he got another tattoo.
Mr. DELUZIO: You can't see it in this picture, but it's on that side, under his arm, so...
LEMOULT: There's a story behind that one. Steven told him when he was in Iraq, his vehicle was stopped one day by an Iraqi woman who said there was a bomb ahead.
Mr. DELUZIO: So they called in the bomb squad, and they diffused the bomb and all that stuff. When they went back the next day to thank this lady for saving their lives, essentially, they found - Steven and his group found the lady and her sons and her husband; they were all beheaded.
LEMOULT: Mark DeLuzio says that experience really weighed on Steven. So to honor that woman, he had an image of an Iraqi woman tattooed on his arm. When he returned from Iraq, he decided to move back to Connecticut to finish up a business degree. That meant he was closer to Leeza Gutt, who he had been dating since high school. And last August, they got engaged. Seven months later, he was in Afghanistan.
Steven's National Guard commitment was set to expire during the deployment, so he could have opted not to go. Instead, he enlisted for another year. Gutt says she was able to talk to him pretty regularly by phone and online, but she knew she wasn't getting the full story.
Ms. LEEZA GUTT: He held back a lot just for security reasons and also, I don't think he wanted us to worry. So he made it seem like it was a walk in the park, but it was a really bad place.
LEMOULT: Steven wasn't the only DeLuzio serving in Afghanistan at the time. Just 80 or so miles away, his older brother Scott was serving with the Connecticut National Guard.
On August 22nd, Steven was killed in a firefight. When their parents saw the soldiers arrive at the door, they immediately knew one of their sons was dead. But they didn't know which one.
When Gutt heard there were soldiers at her door, she hoped maybe Steven was home early.
Ms. GUTT: We had our whole life planned. Everything was in order, and now it's all gone.
LEMOULT: Steven DeLuzio's last status update on his Facebook page was made the day before he died. He was getting ready to head home for a two-week, R&R leave.
Twenty days until I'm out of here, he wrote. A lot to look forward to once I get home. Can't wait.
For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult.
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