Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Marine Reservist has Lucky Meeting with John Kerry

You never know when your luck is going to change. Private First Class Junior Andino of Massachusetts, found that out recently when he had a chance meeting with John Kerry on a flight from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

Andino, describes himself as "the kind of kid nothing much ever happens to." Andino, from Lynn, MA, is a Marine reservist home from Iraq, due to an injury "in the spring while on duty. He fell 10 feet from a Humvee, seriously injuring his right shoulder."

At 18, Andino had enlisted last year after graduating from North Shore Technical High School. He had wanted to be a Marine, he says, since he was 5 years old.

A little more than a week ago, he found himself explaining all this to a former Navy officer, Senator John F. Kerry.

Andino and Kerry were seatmates on a flight from Washington to Boston, during which Kerry quickly struck up a conversation.

Andino told Boston Globe Columnist Adrian Walker yesterday, "We just talked about everything. I showed him some pictures, and told him things are getting better [in Iraq]."

The conversation wasn't all about Iraq, Andino said. "I mentioned that I haven't been to a Red Sox game, ever. He called up somebody, and he asked me if I wanted to go to the Red Sox."

Andino said he is a huge baseball fan who just never had the opportunity, or the money, to go to Fenway Park.

One week later -- senators have no trouble getting tickets, apparently -- Andino was joining Kerry on a trip to Fenway Park. They sat in the owners' box last Thursday and watched the Red Sox win a thriller over the New York Mets, highlighted by a great catch by Coco Crisp.

"It was really good," Andino said. "It was a very fun time for my very first game. It really made my last two months."

Things have been tough for Andino over the course of last two months. In addition to his shoulder injury, Andino's mother passed away six weeks ago and he's been coping with that. He is home for now from Iraq, Andino is being treated at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Andino said his shoulder injury might end his active-duty military career. He is facing surgery, followed by at least six months of physical therapy. By the time he's done with all that, he'll be deactivated. He hopes to regain full range of motion, though his prognosis is uncertain.

He will, however, be able to pursue his other reason for joining the service, which was to get a college education. He said he hopes to enroll at Salem State College, and to double-major in criminal justice and business.

Andino's told Globe Columnist Adrian Walker that his impression of John Kerry was "sharply at odds from the view many people get from seeing him on television." It appears Andino had quite the first hand experience at finding out that John Kerry, a man he looks up to, is indeed the "Real Deal."

"I never thought I'd [talk to] someone I see on TV and look up to," he said. "I never thought I'd be that lucky.

"He was a very nice, down-to-earth person. He was really cool. He was just like an ordinary person, very easy to talk to."

Kerry, of course, has a longstanding empathy for veterans, dating back to his own wartime experiences in Vietnam. But Andino said the senator did not volunteer any war stories.

"We didn't really touch base on that," Andino said. "We just talked about the other thing" -- that other thing being Iraq.

Fenway Park turned out to be a perfect place for two guys, separated by two generations, to set aside the war that links them, senator and foot soldier cheering on the Sox.

"I didn't think anything like that would ever happen to me," Andino said, still incredulous. "It meant a lot to me."


Post a Comment

<< Home