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Oct 9, 2012 6:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Veteran Ronan Seltenreich Returns Home After Serving In Afghanistan

Oct 10, 2012 10:43 AM

A flood of red, white and blue American flags and “welcome home” banners lined the streets of East Quogue on Friday afternoon just for Private 1st Class Ronan Seltenreich, who finally made his way home after a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of expectant faces were gathered at the East Quogue Firehouse, on the corner of Montauk Highway and Bay Avenue, ready to cheer on the 19-year-old as he stepped foot on his home turf for the first time since a seven-and-a-half-month deployment. The homecoming was celebrated by friends and family, as well as neighbors, students and staff of East Quogue Elementary School, members of the East Quogue, Quogue and Westhampton Beach fire departments, East Quogue Cub Scout Pack 261, and the Patriot Guard Riders of New York.

“It’s nice to be able to celebrate the guys who are able to come home,” his mother, Jennifer Seltenreich, said on Friday. “Instead of crying, it’s nice to be able to cheer.”

Having just stepped off a plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport earlier in the day, Pfc. Seltenreich, who enlisted in the Army in October 2010, was greeted by family and friends, including his former wrestling coach and friend of the family, Paul Bass.

Pfc. Seltenreich, who is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, arrived back in the United States in September but had not made a trip north until late last week. His mother worked with friends and family to pull his surprise homecoming together, despite his aversion to the spotlight.

“My boy is a man of few words,” Ms. Seltenreich said about her only son. “He doesn’t want a big deal to be made out of it—but I do. I think it’s a big deal.”

In early September, the division lost two paratroopers, 1st Sergeant Russell Bell, 37, of Tyler, Texas, and Staff Sergeant Matthew Sitton, 26, of Largo, Florida. According to his mother, Pfc. Seltenreich was with the two men when they were killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED. The blast occurred less than two months after Staff Sgt. Sitton wrote a letter to the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, U.S. Representative Charles William Young of Florida, asking that he intervene in the commands that the 25-man platoon was following.

According to the letter, the men took twice-daily patrols through fields and compounds that were “littered with explosives.” He explained that the platoon had been averaging one amputee a day, and wrote that he didn’t see a point in risking such extreme danger since no goal or purpose had been given by the higher-ups in the chain of command.

According to published reports, it was the same mine field that Staff Sgt. Sitton had written about that claimed his life in September. A month earlier, the 2,000th American soldier was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

Because of the sacrifices that soldiers serving in Afghanistan make every day, the community showed great excitement seeing Pfc. Seltenreich driving in.

“It was nice that people came out to support me,” he said. “I do feel a little guilty, because I know guys who deserve it more.”

“He’s very quiet about what happened, but he’s very well-grounded and dealing with it well,” his mother added. “He’s very aware and grateful to be able to come home. That’s why he really doesn’t feel like he’s the hero.”

Nonetheless, the community treated him as such. Patriot Guard Rider and Vietnam veteran Joseph McGowan of Middle Island said Pfc. Seltenreich deserves no less.

“He put his life on the line to protect our freedom,” he said. “I could never treat these guys like they treated us. It’s my civic duty, my spiritual duty.”

Scores of friends slapped Pfc. Seltenreich’s back, shook his hand and hugged him. Also in attendance were his father, Ed, and older sister, Briana.

Before he graduated from Westhampton Beach High School in June 2011, Pfc. Seltenreich finished sixth in the Suffolk County High School Wrestling Tournament, achieving All-County Status. Not having much success in wrestling until his senior year, he “shocked the living hell out of everybody” when he made All-County, Mr. Bass said.

Pfc. Seltenreich’s longtime friend, Travis Chornoma, said the two have known each other since they were 4 years old and even wrestled against each other in high school. He said his friend’s decision to join the Army prior to graduation wasn’t a surprise.

“It was always something Ronan was going to do from day one,” Mr. Chornoma said. “It was a given. Me and my family are proud that he served and happy that he’s home safe.”

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Thank you Ronan for your services. You are a brave young man and I want to thank you for protecting the rights of myself and the american people.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Oct 12, 12 3:50 PM
Thanks for helping keep this country free and being more brave than any of us could hope to ever be.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 12, 12 3:58 PM
Glad to see one of our brave men and women come home safely. God Bless!
By louse pt. (143), springs on Oct 13, 12 8:54 AM
Beautiful! So happy he is home and safe. Thank you for your courage and strength to do what you did for our country! Gosh, only 19!
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Oct 13, 12 10:25 AM
Great story!!!!! Glad that he's home.
By suzer67 (51), nanuet on Oct 13, 12 9:14 PM