Sunday, August 22, 2010

Army Sgt. Steven J. Deluzio

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Steven J. Deluzio, 25, of South Glastonbury, Conn.

Sgt. Deluzio was assigned to 172nd Infantry Regiment, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Jericho, Vt.; died Aug. 22, 2010 in Paktya province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Also killed was Army Sgt. Tristan H. Southworth.

When Mark DeLuzio saw two uniformed officers at his front door Sunday night, the only question he had was which son had been killed.

His younger son, Steven, was in Afghanistan with the Vermont National Guard, and Scott was there with the Connecticut National Guard. The family had not heard from Scott in several weeks while he was on a mission. "Is it Scott?" Mark DeLuzio asked the officers. No, they said. It's Steven.

Steven DeLuzio did not have to go to Afghanistan earlier this year, his father said Tuesday. His commitment to the National Guard would have ended while he was away so he could either re-enlist or stay home.

"He was a sergeant and he did not want his guys to go over by themselves to Afghanistan, so he signed up for another year," said Mark DeLuzio. "He fought with those guys in Iraq, and they were very close."

Listening to news reports about the increasing casualties in Afghanistan, Mark DeLuzio and his wife, Diane, have been "on pins and needles every day." As the military pushed into Taliban strongholds, the death toll for July soared to 66 U.S. service members, surpassing June as the deadliest month in the nearly nine-year war.

Last month Steven DeLuzio wrote on Facebook, "I'm only 25, but feeling closer to 40 these days."

He planned to return home in November with his unit and resume his career as an accountant. He was going to marry his high school sweetheart, Leeza Gutt, next year. He also coached Little League in Glastonbury before leaving for Afghanistan.

DeLuzio was on a foot patrol when his unit was attacked, Mark DeLuzio said. The Army sent a Black Hawk helicopter to pick up Sgt. Scott DeLuzio, 28, from the battlefield. He is a member of the 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, the same unit that Staff Sgt. Edwin Rivera, of Waterford, was serving in when he was killed in May.

Scott traveled with Steven's body to Kuwait before returning home on Tuesday. The family is waiting to find out when Steven will be returned from Dover Air Force Base before finalizing funeral arrangements.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell called the DeLuzio family on Tuesday to say that she told the Connecticut National Guard that Scott DeLuzio would not return to Afghanistan, Mark DeLuzio said.

Mark DeLuzio said the family is grateful for the outpouring of support from relatives and friends, but his "best therapy" is a smile from Scott's 9-month-old son.

Mark DeLuzio described his son as a "clown."

"He was funny," he said. "He was serious and he was a big sports fan. He loved hockey and he loved baseball. I'm a big Red Sox fan, and he's a Yankees fan. We always had fun battling each other all through the years.

"He was just a great kid."

Steven DeLuzio talked about his life in South Glastonbury in a Facebook message posted June 25. "Funny, you spend so much time in your younger years making plans of escaping where you grew up, but the older you get, and the more time you spend around the world, the more you appreciate and miss home," he wrote. "Almost July, only a few more months ... "

DeLuzio was a 2003 graduate of Glastonbury High School. He was a member of the ice hockey team and freshman class president.

On his Facebook page the day before his death, Steven writes "20 days until I'm outta here...a lot to look forward to once I get home, can't wait."

"The ultimate teammate," said Ken Barse, the hockey coach at Glastonbury High School who coached DeLuzio before he graduated in 2003. Barse said he learned about DeLuzio's death Sunday, the day he was killed. "I'll forever remember his smile and the gleam he had in his eyes," Barse said. "He was never in trouble — he always did the right thing. … He's the kid you'd want to have serving your country."

Under his yearbook photo his senior year, he wrote that his life's ambition was to "take over my Dad's business." An honors student who was freshman class president, he later worked at a local accounting firm.

Barse said DeLuzio showed a sense of discipline playing hockey that served him well in the Army.

Alex Rodriguez filled in for Barse as head coach in 2003, the year DeLuzio was captain and the team won the state championship. He said it was a very tough year, the year three Glastonbury teens died in a car wreck. "I really believe that his leadership is what got us to New Haven and won us the championship," said Rodriguez, who is back at his job as an assistant coach.

DeLuzio wasn't "the finesse guy" or a player who would score a lot of goals, he said. "He was a defenseman," Rodriguez said. But "when things were going bad, he would just take leadership on the ice."

Once, he said, the goalie left the goal to make a save, leaving it wide open, and "Steve just flew across the ice like Superman and made a save. That was the kind of kid he was."

"Any talent that he lacked, he made up for it with perseverance and tenacity," Rodriguez said. "I've got two boys, and if either one of them grew up to be of the character Steve was, I'd feel like I've been successful as a parent."

Mark DeLuzio, Steven and Scott's father, tells News 8 that his kids are "the greatest sons in the world." He broke down when he first saw Scott, who was brought home from Afghanistan to grieve with his family.

Gov. Jodi Rell ordered flags around the state be flown at half-staff until his interment. "I urge everyone to keep Sergeant DeLuzio and his family in your hearts and prayers. Please honor the memory of this brave soldier, who gave his life for our liberty. We will be forever grateful for his dedication to duty, to our freedom and the American ideals we hold so dear," Rell said in a written statement.

Army Sgt. Steven J. Deluzio was killed in action on 8/22/10.

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