June 20--SEYMOUR -- While U.S. Navy Corpsman Peter 'P.J.' Garafolo serves his country some 6,900 miles from home in the African nation of Djibouti, his fellow volunteer firefighters at Citizens Engine Co. #2 want their friend to know he has their unwavering support.
Garafolo, 28, deployed on Mother's Day, to the U.S. military base in Djibouti (pronounced jee-boo-tee), where he is working as a medic. His deployment is expected to last eight months. At home, Garafolo is employed as an emergency medical technician with American Medical Response in New Haven. He's been a volunteer firefighter with Citizens for the past six years and has been involved with his local fire department in his hometown of Beacon Falls since age 16.
While he's away, Garafolo's 'brothers' from Citizens Engine Co. are keeping the faith that P.J. stays safe, and want him to know they're thinking about him.
On Wednesday, Citizens President Patrick Lombardi, along with Garafolo's parents, Peter and Cindy, his sister, Kylee, girlfriend, Nancy Squarciafico, and baby daughter, Julianna, gathered in front of the firehouse on Deforest Street. Fellow firefighters raised the official military deployment flag up the department's flagpole, where it will wave alongside Old Glory until Garafolo comes home.
"We wanted to pay tribute to one of our own who's been deployed," Lombardi said. "A few of the members approached me and thought it would an excellent idea to fly the (deployment) flag and send P.J. a picture of all the guys, signed by everyone. We wish him well and Godspeed and hope for his safe return."
Garafolo leaving for duty on Mother's Day was tough for both his mom and girlfriend, but Cindy Garafolo knows her son will be home in time to celebrate her birthday in February, and that will be the perfect gift.
"That was a tough day," Cindy Garafolo said. "But we're able to talk to him every day and Skype with him and keep in touch through Facebook."
Social media has been a God-send for Garafolo's girlfriend and 20-month-old daughter, who also love to Skype with dad, with Julianna pointing to his face on the computer screen, saying "da da" in delight, according to Squarciafico.
Peter Garafolo thanked Lombardi and the firefighters for keeping his son in their thoughts and prayers while on his first military mission.
"These guys are great," Garafolo said. "We really appreciate what they've done."
According to news reports, the U.S. base in Djibouti is used for operations across the region, including drone strikes. Peter Garafolo said his son and fellow soldiers stationed there are working on "humanitarian and stabilization efforts."
Last month, at least one person was killed and several wounded when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a restaurant, the first attack in Djibouti to be claimed by the Shebab since it joined the African Union force in 2011, according to Yahoo News.
The Shebab said the attack was also carried out in retaliation for Djibouti's hosting of the United States' biggest military base in Africa.
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