Published August 25. 2010 4:00AM Updated August 25. 2010 1:53PM
When Mark DeLuzio saw two uniformed officers at his front door Sunday night, the only question he had was which son had been killed.
His younger son, Steven, was in Afghanistan with the Vermont National Guard, and Scott was there with the Connecticut National Guard. The family had not heard from Scott in several weeks while he was on a mission.
"Is it Scott?" Mark DeLuzio asked the officers.
No, they said. It's Steven.
Sgt. Steven J. DeLuzio, 25, was killed Sunday in Paktika, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, according to the Defense Department.
Another member of the unit, Spc. Tristan H. Southworth, 21, of Walden, Vt., was also killed in the attack. Southworth was promoted posthumously to sergeant.
DeLuzio, an infantryman, was supposed to return home to South Glastonbury next month on leave. He wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday, "20 days until I'm outta here... a lot to look forward to once I get home, can't wait."
Growing up in South Glastonbury, DeLuzio was an avid hockey player. He was the co-captain of the team at Glastonbury High School in his senior year.
After graduating in 2003, he went to Hofstra University for a year and then transferred to Norwich University, a military college in Vermont. He joined the Vermont Army National Guard and had to put his education on hold in January 2006 to serve in Ramadi, Iraq, for six months.
He finished his studies at the University of Hartford, graduating in 2009 with a business degree. He was working as an accountant at J.H. Cohn in Glastonbury when his unit, the 172nd Infantry, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) based in Jericho, Vt., was ordered to Afghanistan.
Close to his men
Steven DeLuzio did not have to go to Afghanistan earlier this year, his father said Tuesday. His commitment to the National Guard would have ended while he was away so he could either re-enlist or stay home.
"He was a sergeant and he did not want his guys to go over by themselves to Afghanistan, so he signed up for another year," said Mark DeLuzio, who owns Lean Horizons Consulting in Glastonbury. "He fought with those guys in Iraq, and they were very close."
Listening to news reports about the increasing casualties in Afghanistan, Mark DeLuzio and his wife, Diane, have been "on pins and needles every day." As the military pushed into Taliban strongholds, the death toll for July soared to 66 U.S. service members, surpassing June as the deadliest month in the nearly nine-year war.
Last month Steven DeLuzio wrote on Facebook, "I'm only 25, but feeling closer to 40 these days."
He planned to return home in November with his unit and resume his career as an accountant. He was going to marry his high school sweetheart, Leeza Gutt, next year. He also coached Little League in Glastonbury before leaving for Afghanistan.
DeLuzio was on a foot patrol when his unit was attacked, Mark DeLuzio said. The Army sent a Black Hawk helicopter to pick up Sgt. Scott DeLuzio, 28, from the battlefield. He is a member of the 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, the same unit that Staff Sgt. Edwin Rivera, of Waterford, was serving in when he was killed in May.
Scott traveled with Steven's body to Kuwait before returning home on Tuesday. The family is waiting to find out when Steven will be returned from Dover Air Force Base before finalizing funeral arrangements.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell called the DeLuzio family on Tuesday to say that she told the Connecticut National Guard that Scott DeLuzio would not return to Afghanistan, Mark DeLuzio said.
Mark DeLuzio said the family is grateful for the outpouring of support from relatives and friends, but his "best therapy" is a smile from Scott's 9-month-old son.
Rell ordered state and U.S. flags to be lowered to half staff until DeLuzio's interment. "Please honor the memory of this brave soldier, who gave his life for our liberty," she said. "We will be forever grateful for his dedication to duty, to our freedom and the American ideals we hold so dear."
Mark DeLuzio described his son as a "clown."
"He was funny," he said. "He was serious and he was a big sports fan. He loved hockey and he loved baseball. I'm a big Red Sox fan, and he's a Yankees fan. We always had fun battling each other all through the years.
"He was just a great kid."
Steven DeLuzio talked about his life in South Glastonbury in a Facebook message posted June 25.
"Funny, you spend so much time in your younger years making plans of escaping where you grew up, but the older you get, and the more time you spend around the world, the more you appreciate and miss home," he wrote.
"Almost July, only a few more months ... "