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Herald Neighbors

U.S. Army soldiers from Lynbrook company make young Oceansider's birthday bright


Kimberlee and Jared Lanning knew just what to do when their son, Jared Jr., asked for “real army soldiers” at his birthday party — they called the U.S. Army.

Come Jared Jr.’s big day on April 10, the Army exceeded the Lanning’s expectations. Captain Natasha Silva, Sgt. First Class Jose D’Espinoza, Sgt. First Class Jose Marrero, Staff Sgt. Raphael DeJesus, Staff Sgt. Christopher Hepburn, Sgt. Benjamin Fannin and Corporal Michael Pagonis marched through their backyard gate in Oceanside to greet Jared Jr. on his 6th birthday.

The soldiers came from the U.S. Army Nassau Recruiting Company in Lynbrook. Though the Lannings had hired superheroes from companies for previous parties, they said it felt special to bring real-life superheroes to visit their son.

“My heart definitely grew another 10 sizes,” Kimberlee Lanning said, “as did my faith in the kindness of the seven soldiers as I watched them present my son with gifts they brought for him and their genuine warmh and playfulness with all the children and parents.”

She added that many of them stayed for the duration of the party and enjoyed pizza and hot dogs before singing happy birthday to Jared Jr., who was dressed in fatigues for the occasion.

“We will never forget this unthinkable act of kindness and the joy they brought to all of us that afternoon,” Kimberlee said. “We are in fragile times to say the least, but these seven incredible, selfless soldiers, in just a few hours, managed to instill in all of us a feeling of safety, hope and  pride, which we all need to be reminded of. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you and may God bless our troops.”


—Mike Smollins