Lt. Vincent Grasso, a Valley Stream resident and village trustee, is in the midst of his second tour of active military duty — this time in Afghanistan — but for two weeks in February, he returned home.
Grasso joined the Army Reserves in 1993 and the Navy Reserves in 2001. He served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006-07, where he was a member of Seal Team 5, working in intelligence support. He was mobilized for his second tour in August and has been stationed in Afghanistan since November where he’s been working with the Special Operations Joint Task Force.
He requested to have some time off in late-February because his 11-year-old daughter, Isabella, had a week off of school. Isabella, a sixth-grader at William L. Buck Elementary School, knew her father was coming home, but was told it would be during her week off. Instead, Grasso dropped by her school on Feb. 12 to surprise her.
Principal Mark Onorato had already scheduled an assembly that day for a program where students write Valentine’s Day cards to veterans. Town of Hempstead Councilman James Darcy was coming to the school in the afternoon to pick up the cards and talk to the students. However, when Grasso’s wife, Mary, called the school informing the administration of her husband’s surprise, Onorato had an idea.
He called an assembly in the gymnasium for fourth through sixth graders, and asked Isabella to present the cards to a visitor. Since Darcy was coming in the afternoon, Onorato said he had a special guest. Grasso, who was waiting outside the gymnasium, then walked through the doors to surprise Isabella.
“It’s really encouraging to see that kind of support come from the community to the folks who are called to serve,” Grasso said.
Since the surprise, he has used his time home to unwind, spend time with loved ones and to get away with the family. “It’s good to see folks, relax and go about your normal, daily routine without people trying to blow you up,” he said.
Prior to his deployment, Grasso told the Herald that servicemen typically get a break from duty that is five times the length of their last deployment. Since he was in Iraq for eight months in 2006-07, he was entitled to a 40-month reprieve. Grasso knew that he would be recalled; the only question was when.