Native New Yorker and 22 year old Mario Ayala is back on City Island after serving a long year of active duty in Afghanistan. This well deserved vacation is an opportunity for him to reconnect with his family, his friends and to enjoy time away from the everyday stress and duties of being a service member assigned to war.
The US Army chemical weapons specialist did not want to talk about his Army experience, but his military rank is more than just who salutes whom. It is more about wearing a badge of leadership and courage.
Ayala. who was stationed in Sharona Military Base wasted no time when he got off the plane in New York.
His first stop was to visit his mother Alice, who is a proud City Island homeowner and also works as a nurse at Montefiore Hospital's kidney transplant unit. Once Mario gave mom a loving hug and kiss, his next stop was to visit friends and seek R&R on City Island, where he will stay for the next three weeks.
People say that when Mario left for Army boot-camp, he was a skinny kid, but he now looks more like Superman. In fact, he was wearing that T-shirt when City Island Images caught up to him outside Chef Rafael's To-Go Express. Mario was there to deliver an American flag flown by Task Force Gambler during Operation Enduring Freedom, to his friends and City Island business owners Patrice and Rafael Ortega.
This is a special and unique gift from the crew of Bravo Company 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 4th Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. These stars and stripes were flown in the face of determined enemy and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom aboard a US Army UH-60L Blackhawk Helicopter.
If you see Mario jogging or strolling around City Island, please welcome him home and make him feel like an Islander once again. He will be returning to his next Army post at the end of July, where he expects to be re-assigned stateside for the remainder of his enlisted tour of duty.