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'For The Land Of The Free'

Floral Park Memorial graduate now fights for the U.S. Army

While many college students have just finished the stressful times of Finals week, one young Floral Park native’s days have been spent on something other then studying and papers. 


Floral Park resident and 2010 graduate of Floral Park Memorial High School Charles Susczynski is currently in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan fighting for the United States Army. After training in the army after graduating from high school, Susczynski now operates with the 4-2 Striker Brigade Combat Team in the 38th Engineer company first platoon and is expected back in Floral Park in July.


“I think I wanted to be in the army since I was a little kid,” says Susczynski. “I grew up on stories about my grandfather as a combat engineer in World War II and I feel like I need to do something with my life.” 


The army had what Susczynski was looking for through its code of conduct, its values and its creed. The thought of fighting for freedom and liberty was also a major aspect, which Susczynski found to be cliche but something he definitely wanted to do.


It didn’t take long whilst he arrived in the foreign country until Susczynski realized the tough brutalities of a war zone.


“My first month in Afghanistan I saw some brutal stuff,” he says. “We had a kid who had been hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) that was placed by the Taliban come to our Forward Operation Base for help. Unfortunately it was too late and he died.”


Susczynski also lost two great friends to the war, Private First Class Simms and Staff Sergeant Battle. In April, their platoon was hit by a dismounted IED and one of the platoon’s great leader’s Staff Sergeant Shockely lost both of his limbs. Luckily, he’s recovering now and he’s already trying to finish rehab and buy a truck.


“I myself was hit by an IED in December,” says Susczynski. “The great thing about that story is when our truck got hit our tires blew off and went straight through a qualt wall (mud wall) and a hut. It all sounds terrible but my job is to find these IED’s so other ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) aren’t hit by them so I really feel like I’m making a difference out here.” 


Even in the face of hard times, Susczynski and his soldiers carry on and stay professional like a solider has to. According to Susczynski, soldiers can’t show their depression during a firefight or after an IED. It’s more important for soldiers to take that sadness and turn it into something else they can use on the battle field.


“We’ll cry for our brothers later either when were back in the states or at their memorial service,” says Susczynski. “Personally I try to keep people happy in my platoon with jokes and pranks but other wise I feel a lot older, more tired and more humble.”


For any other young men looking to join the armed forced, Susczynski sees it as a “life changing experience.” He does warn prospective members of the army that it will be hard work.


“If you join you have to go to basic training and have some angry drill sergeant yelling at you 24/7,” he says. “But that builds you into a better man and into a soldier.” 


However, Susczynski also points out that the military has endless amounts of options for Americans who want to fight for their country.

Susczynski himself has traveled to Australia and Afghanistan because of the army and he lists Germany, Hawaii, Japan, Korea and stateside posts across the continental United States as just a few of the other options for soldiers. 


"Just don’t go to Fort Lewis,” Susczynski joked. “There’s a little too much rain, gray and green for me.” 


Though Susczynski couldn’t picked out one specific experience that was most rewarding, there was aspect of the United Armed Forces that seemed to strike closest to his heart.


“I have a group of people from all over the country and sometimes the world,” says Susczynski. “They call me their brother and I would do anything for them and they would do anything for me.”