Kenosha Vet Takes Honor Flight to Washington, DC, and Pays Tribute to Son Killed in Iraq | New

Dino Sturino, Kenosha resident and restaurant owner, a Vietnam War Navy veteran, has a baseball cap adorned with dozens of pins from his time in service, like many other veterans.

But on his hat are two additional pins, one from the 101st Airborne Division and a red-edged gold star flag.

They are in honor of his 21-year-old son, Paul Sturino, who was serving with the 101st Airborne when he was killed in Iraq in 2003. Wednesday, September 14 would have been Paul’s birthday.

When Dino took his honor flight in Washington, DC on September 10, days before his son’s birthday, he was wearing the cap.

Sturino spoke enthusiastically about the trip, especially the reception the group received when they landed in Washington, where there were hundreds of people to greet them. A police escort took up to six buses full of veterans and their guardians for a whirlwind tour of the neighborhood and its many memorials.

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“We have touched them all. I told someone that normally you could spend a week here and not see them all, Sturino said.

Among Sturino’s highlights was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where they got to see the changing of the guard.

“It was impressive, the changing of the guard,” recalls Sturino. “It is done with such grace and eloquence.”

The hardest part of the tour, however, was Arlington National Cemetery. Sturino said looking at the rows of white headstones was a grim reminder of the cost of war.

“Thousands and thousands of stones, it was unbelievable,” Sturino said.

As the group toured DC, Sturino said he spoke with other veterans from across the state, exchanged contacts and promised to drop by when they were in the area.

Although they didn’t all fight in the same wars, Sturino said being a veteran was a shared experience.

“It was a real bonding experience, it was really enjoyable,” Sturino said. “We got along well, we told jokes, we laughed.”

When they returned to Wisconsin, Sturino said there were even more people to greet them, possibly thousands. The children gave them notes and cookies, which Sturino said he kept, though he lamented that he couldn’t write a thank you note because they didn’t include a return address. Now back at his restaurant, Sturino said the trip had a powerful impact on him.

“I would recommend any veteran to go. It’s a life-changing experience,” Sturino said. “If you can fly, go.”

Sturino often shares the story of his last conversation with his son, who called him despondent about his deployment shortly after receiving his 21st birthday card.

“He tells me, ‘This war sucks,'” Sturino said. “I tell him, ‘Any war is terrible.'”

Dino comforted his son by telling him that he would be back soon enough. Paul would return to the United States just over a week later, killed by an accidental discharge.

Dino shared several photos from his trip, including one of DC’s Korean War Veterans Memorial, which reads, ‘Freedom is not free’, a line he firmly stands by after the tragedy. from his family.

“Freedom is not free, there is always a cost,” Sturino said.

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