Hi. I wrote this editorial about some really cool people that have touched some of our lives...you can meet 2 in Ardmore on Friday. This editorial, in it's entirety, comes to you courtesy of Main Line Life Newspaper in Ardmore, PA:
We are rapidly approaching the 7th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. I remember after 9/11 occurred, I took a good look at how I defined volunteerism, just like many other Americans. I decided volunteering locally in a more hands on approach was the way to go. But while I might do my thing and volunteer locally, there are those whom I find both extraordinary and truly exemplary. Everyday heroes. I would like to introduce you to three. Two you can meet locally Sept. 5 in Ardmore. The third is currently deployed in Iraq.It is no secret that I both enjoy and am proud of my involvement in First Friday Main Line and The Save Ardmore Coalition. On Friday, Sept. 5, both organizations are coming together to help forward the mission of a local group called "American Troop Support Team," which is the brainchild of a Havertown native with a most generous heart named Joe Natale. This event will occur at the Ardmore VFW on Lancaster Ave.
Here is what American Troop Support Team ("A.T.S.T.") does in their own words from the www.americantroopsupportteam.com:
"The American Troop Support Team is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to show support of our soldiers. We send boxes of "goods from home" directly to the individual soldiers. Inspired by S.S.G. Peter Torruella, A.T.S.T. was formed so that the men and women of our Armed Forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan know that we at home support them."
Now how can you argue with this? This is why Joe Natale is my first everyday hero. He puts together these care packages of items we all take for granted like sweat proof sun screen, deodorant, non-perishable food items, ibuprofen, body lotion, lip balm and soap. Joe is doing the right thing. In my mind, no matter how you feel about war (or this war), you should be able to support these men and women serving in the U.S. military who are "over there" in harm's way every minute of every hour of every day.
That brings me to everyday hero number two. Unfortunately, we can't meet him on Sept. 5 because he is actively deployed in Iraq. His name is Sgt. Mark L. Luongo, member of Echo (Engineers) Company, 4-64 AR 3rd Infantry Division Ft. Stewart, GA. Sgt. Luongo is currently residing near Baghdad at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon.
After 9/11, Sgt. Luongo, who was at that time in the private sector, decided he needed to give back to his country. That led him to active duty service in the U.S. Army beginning in March,2006. Sgt. Luongo grew up in Bala Cynwyd and Media, attending St. Matthias School, Archbishop Carroll, and graduating from Cardinal O'Hara. He then went to college out west, and eventually settled in Denver prior to joining the Army. He has a wife named Tatiana, and a 7-year-old son Colby, who currently reside in Evergreen, Colorado. Sgt. Luongo reenlisted for a second tour of duty on July 4, 2008.
Sgt. Luongo is most definitely an everyday hero and communicating with him via e-mail made all those serving overseas in the U.S. Armed Forces suddenly very real to me. I asked him if he had a message for people at home, and I would like to share with you the following in his words:
"The one message I would like to send to ATST is that "you're all awesome!" … The effort and costs to put a care package together of this magnitude is immense and it is greatly appreciated. All of us are grateful for all the continued support. We know your prayers are working because luckily none of us have been injured to date. We've been here in south Baghdad for 10 months. We anticipate coming back to the states as late as 15 JAN 09, so we still have a little bit more time to get through. We all miss home and hope to be there soon. It is tough to be away from our families, friends and loved ones."
Last but not least, I would like to introduce to you one of those people in life you meet for whom you have an instant affinity. He is also someone you can meet in Ardmore on First Friday Main Line. He is an author and teacher, whose acquaintance I made earlier this summer. His name is Erec Smith. He and his wife Jennifer reside in Narberth.
Erec will be reading from his successful debut novel, "Creamy Nougat" at one of my favorite shops, Past*Present*Future at 15 W. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Creamy Nougat is a novel that deals with the human quest for self-identity and peace of mind amidst physical, racial, and socioeconomic tensions. All will find something to identify with in this debut novel, and Erec's novel challenges us as human beings to be kinder and more understanding of one and other.
Erec is the Director the University Writing Center at Ursinus College. And yes, Erec is my third everyday hero. He delivers a serious message with clarity, sensitivity, and wit through his great gift of writing. He is also an everyday hero because he teaches. Erec doesn't have to teach, he chooses to.
So there you have it. Three very different men who are everyday heroes. We often take our lives for granted, and these three men show us again what is precious and why.
I applaud them.
I hope you come to Ardmore on Friday, Sept. 5 to meet two of my everyday heroes, and keep the third in your thoughts and prayers until he is home safely once again on U.S. soil.
Carla J. Zambelli writes an occasional column for Main Line Life.