NEW CASTLE —
For Anthony Nocera and his wife, Carole, one day a year to thank veterans does not seem to be nearly enough.
The Union Township residents are well aware of all the risk that goes into military service. They also are well aware of the loneliness, worry and fear of those left at home while a loved one is sent into a war zone.
They know because not one, but both of their sons are serving in the military, and both are stationed in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Nocera is their older son. A 2001 graduate of New Castle High School, he is serving his second tour in Afghanistan as a member of 101stAirborne Infantry Pathfinders, based out of Clarksville, Tenn. Through his parents’ computer, Anthony explained his decision to join the military.
“I enlisted in the U.S. Army because I needed discipline and structure in my life, and wanted a job that would test me mentally and physically,” he said. “I decided to enlist as an airborne infantryman where I could serve my country as a paratrooper.”
The Noceras’ second son is Sgt. Tory Nocera. After a previous tour in Iraq, the 2008 Union High graduate is stationed in northern Afghanistan as part of the 3rd ID Military Intelligence Unit based at Fort Stewart, Ga.
Again via computer, Tory said, “I wanted to be a part of the Army ever since I was a little boy. I always had the desire to enlist as soon as I graduated high school.”
While Anthony Sr. worries about his sons, he also is pleased with their choices. “I feel very proud that they are serving their country, and making a positive impact on their lives,” he said.
Having his sons so far away is hard on both him and his wife, but coping is easier now than it was for past generations of soldiers and their parents. They speak often through mail, Facebook, Skype and even an occasional phone call. They are also in constant touch with each son’s wife, who also keeps them up to date on what is going on.
“But there is still nothing like being together.” Anthony Sr. said.
Those opportunities have been extremely rare in recent years. Last Christmas, though, everything lined up, and for the first time in more than four years, both boys were able to be home for Christmas.
“It was a very special time for the whole family. My wife even hired a photographer for the day,” Anthony Sr. smiled.
The whole family — Mom, Dad, grandparents and the boys and their wives — celebrated together.The day was made even more special by the fact that this year, neither will be home for Christmas, instead spending the holidays in Afghanistan.
Still, both sons are proud of serving there and of the positive change they believe they have helped bring to the country.
“I think the U.S. along with its allies from all over the world has brought a lot of good to Afghanistan,” Tory said. “Most Afghans appreciate that we are here and realize we have left our homes and families thousands of miles away in order to help them and their country.”
Adds Anthony: “This has been a long, hard-fought war. I have seen the good, bad, and the ugly of this war. Now it is all up to the Afghan people to make their country a better place.”
With two sons serving their country in the danger zones of war, one could understand if the Nocera family feels honoring American soldiers with only one day doesn’t seem enough. But it is a start, and on this day, America says thank you to them and all others who serve or have served.