From Bull Run to BaghdadMeet the Fighting 69th of New York
By Jessica Aksoy
Inside the Joseph A. Healey Regimental Headquarters room in the 69th Infantry Regiment armory, National Guard infantry squad leader Brandon ‘Lucky’ Luchsinger shares details about his new life as a civilian after having been on active duty for most of his fifteen years in the military. “I would like to get a job soon and have babies,” he smiles.
However, this is proving to be a difficult task for Luchsinger. He married his long-time girlfriend Lisa back in 2008 the day before deploying to Afghanistan, and now is struggling to pay the bills after recently purchasing a house.
“We were going to mobilize to go to Afghanistan again, so they put me on orders to follow them…Basically, I was on orders for two years [….] and then when the 69th wasn’t picked to deploy….How do I say this? Our Commander in Chief cut our budget a little bit and therefore the money disappeared, and with no money, no activation, orders go away. Now I’ve been unemployed since last October.”
Luchsinger is taking his new situation day by day. “I’m looking for jobs like the other fifteen million other Americans out there,” he explained. “I’ve got numerous responses back: too qualified, too over-qualified, too much experience, looking for a new person, too old. It’s a process.”
The 69th Infantry Regiment consists of many other National Guard soldiers who sacrifice just like Luchsinger. Despite hardships, they continue to go on with their daily lives.
69th Regiment Fire Team Leader and College of Staten Island student of international relations Nicholas Sbano, 29, knows the feeling of sacrifice. “It’s not easy,” he shared. For Sbano, being in the 69th Regiment has “really affected my life a lot.”
Meet the Fighting 69th: Nick
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“Because this is a National Guard unit, not a regular army unit, I’m not doing it every day of my life,” said Sbano. “I do it on the weekend. When we deploy, it takes a year of your life and you go away. So it’s a little hard to juggle at times because you have your regular job then you come here and then if you have college also, it changes your life a bit.”
Despite the hardships they face, the soldiers of the 69th Regiment never back down, said Sbano. Standing in one of the archive rooms in the armory while studying a pastel portrait of a former unit commander, Sbano shares “[Being in the 69th Regiment] helps you to grow up faster than some of the guys just because you have to learn time management, especially what I do. I do a lot of volunteer work with the history of the unit, so it keeps me very, very busy.”
The sacrifice made by the members of the 69th Infantry Regiment is something that has shaped their history and has created the great legacy of the unit. Past members include leaders like WWI heroes William Donovan, ‘father of the CIA,’ and Father Francis P. Duffy, the most decorated U.S. Chaplain in history. The armory exhibits memorabilia to honor the heroes of the past, and to support the soldiers that have been to Iraq, and some who are in Afghanistan.
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Yet, there is a silver lining to the duty of being in the 69th Infantry Regiment. Along with leading the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade each year and meeting dignitaries like Medal of Honor recipients, there are other benefits to being a member. According to Assistant Operations NCO Norberto Carrasquillo, 41, being a member of the 69th Regiment has “shown me how to survive.”
Carrasquillo shares that there is a sense of camaraderie and pride in being a member of the Fighting 69th.
Meet the Fighting 69th: Norberto
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“Society’s changing every day and we’re kind of losing our roots. We kind of lost our grassroots of what it is to be an American, and the best part of being in this regiment in New York City is that its history started with minority people, the Irish, and now it’s one of the most diverse units. We keep alive traditions that were established by the first Irish soldiers who started the regiment, and we try to maintain that to this day. What I love about it is that it reminds us of our past and how we must honor those who were before us, who lead the way to what we are now. ”
The members of the 69th Regiment have a history of pride, honor and sacrifice that goes well beyond the limits of everyday life.
“One of the most common question a civilian asks is ‘How many people have you killed?’” said Luchsinger. “I always tell them the same thing. If you’re put in a situation, you’ll make the decision on the spot, and if it’s between him or me, it’s going to be me. I’ll tell you also that you never stop seeing that face for the rest of your life. If someone asks me, ‘Well, what do you mean by that?’ I say, ‘Hopefully, you’ll never have to know.”
Colonel James P. Tierney (Ret), the 69th Infantry’s Regimental Historian, explains the sacrifice of the 69th Infantry. “What any private doesn’t know or realize is when they sign up for active duty, they’re signing a blank check for the government to do as they please with their lives, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “No soldier likes war.”
Gathered around the Garryowen Room bar inside the armory, Carrasquillo, Sbano and Luchsinger explained that despite the sacrifices they have had to make, being a member of the 69th Regiment has strengthened them as individuals. As Luchinger summarized, “Any soldier, or at least me and my friends, if we could stop [war] today, we would.”
Meet the Fighting 69th: Brandon
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