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It was the dead of winter, on Feb. 19, when Lance Corporal Bryan Mathews, stationed in Iraq, emailed Assemblyman Tom Alfano using the popular website Facebook. The Elmont resident and Marine was on a six-month tour of duty when he emailed Alfano and talked about his tour, politics and mutual friends through Sandy's Party Supplies, where Mathews worked part time, and the Randazzo family. Mathews and Alfano had never met before but a friendship developed through those emails.

Recently, Mathews returned home after his tour of his duty and spent the Easter holiday with his family. His family had a party to welcome him home over the Easter holiday. On Tuesday, Alfano and Mathews met in person for the first time at the Marine's Crown Avenue home with his family and friends. Alfano took the opportunity to present the Assembly's Excelsior Award for Service.

"It's a real honor to meet Bryan and to thank him for his service. He's a son of Elmont, a Marine, and someone who answered the call of his country with honor and distinction. He's a special young man who has a very bright future ahead of him. I'm proud to know him and call him a friend," said Alfano.

Mathews served in the Al Anbar Province where he was an MP at the Al Asad Air Base. The Lance Corporal wants to fly helicopters in the future and continue to serve his country. Right now, though, he is looking forward to going to college. The Sewanhaka High School graduate of the Class of 2005 trained at 29 Palms in California, a Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, before he was deployed for his assignment.

Mathews stayed in touch with family and friends through Facebook. Alfano and Mathews sat in Mathews' living room and talked about his experiences overseas and what he wants to do with his life going forward.

"It was clear to see what a supporting family Bryan has. His sister wants to grow up and be a Marine just like him. For now, she has to concentrate at doing well at Covert Avenue School," Alfano said.


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