Soldier learns of fire at parents'

February 19, 2009 4:24:00 PM PST
One man stationed in Iraq learned that his parents have lost their home to fire. Last month, while stationed in Iraq, Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Chris Petrillo of Oceanport was checking his cousin's Facebook page. A message asked everyone to pray for his aunt and uncle whose house just burned down.

Concerned for their safety, Petrillo tried desperately to reach his parents Steve and Karen and when he couldn't he borrowed a satellite phone from his commander to call the local police chief.

"And he's like so Chris, you heard. No, I didn't hear. He's like oh. Well, your parents are in the hospital and the house burned down," Sgt. Petrillo said.

His parents were being treated for smoke inhalation, but he eventually got to talk to them.

"We're both okay, that's what matters I said, pretty much everything else is gone," Karen said.

Chris, one of three grown children and a member of the local first aid and fire departments, got an emergency pass and came home for several days to help sift through the rubble of this accidental fire. He's since rejoined his unit, now stationed in Washington state.

Several Oceanport organizations are rallying around his parents, raising money for the Petrillos, who are themselves, longtime volunteers in the community.

"We just felt we needed to do something to help someone that is out helping us," fundraising organizer Jim Gallo said.

"The outpouring has been phenomenal, the borough council, fire departments, everyone is just tell us what can we do, let us know what you need," Steve Petrillo said.

Sgt. Petrillo will be home next month on a regular leave, but until then he says it's a comfort to know this community is taking such good care of his family.

"Took a lot of stress off me because I knew they'd be in good hands," Sgt. Petrillo said.

The Petrillos say they're used to helping people, so to be on the receiving end is hard, but they're learning and they're thankful.

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