Flag Day was a fitting day for Army Sgt. , a 2003 graduate of killed in Afghanistan while serving in the U.S. Army, to be honored with a plaque at the Brookhaven Town Hall Global War on Terror Memorial.
Brookhaven Town officials and local veterans' organizations joined Santora's father , sister Gina and other family members to immortalize another local fallen hero.
, a Farmingville native, gave his life in the name of freedom on April 23, 2010 at the age of 25. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment based in Fort Benning, Ga. He died in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan on his sixth deployment since he enlisted in March 2006. For more than three years, he was a mortar platoon ammunition bearer and a rifle team leader.
He was the 9th Brookhaven resident added to the memorial outside Town Hall.
"I'm truly moved. Any chance I can get to honor my son I do it. I'm totally blown away right now," said Gary Santora. "It's hard. He's the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night. It's like half my world is gone. I just miss him dearly. It's not going to bring him back, but these things help."
Elaine and Terry Wilwerth, whose son, Specialist Thomas J. Wilwerth, was killed in Iraq in 2006, were on hand to stand in solidarity with a fellow Gold Star Family. The Wilwerth's were instrumental in working with town officials to erect the memorial.
"It's nice that the Town of Brookhaven doesn't forget. Hopefully, no more names will go on the monument. There's too many already," said Elaine.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko read a statement from Sachem Superintendent James Nolan that included the following: "Jason is a true hero, because he gave his life to make the lives of others better."
The rain held off just long enough for the memorial to take place, and the sun even struggled to make its way out from behind the clouds for a moment or two. As the newest plaque was revealed, Santora's father and sister consoled one another, tears streaming down Gina's face, amid the solemn dirge of a bugler's playing of Taps, the flags of the color guard waving proudly and a pair of doleful black birds flying overhead. Afterward, a few droplets of rain began to fall from the sky, as if Heaven itself couldn't help but shed a tear.
"This is so in a small way we can ensure that generations of Brookhaven residents, when they come to the memorial to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice, they will remember Jason Santora," said Lesko. "It gives a place for the family to come to remember their son or brother, and a peaceful place to reflect upon his sacrifice."
Last year the Sachem Central School District honored Santora at a ceremony when it unveiled its at Sachem High School North.