Front and center at the Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Festival this year will be three honored Revere veterans, most prominent being Marc Silvestri – a Bronze Star with Valor recipient for heroic acts that saved 31 soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008.
“I am really looking forward to being honored, but I will be up there representing all the soldiers,” he said on Monday night shortly after learning he would be one of three honored. “There are so many guys who have given up so much and more than I have. As a vet, it’s kind of a tough thing to stand up there. It’s kind of a mixed feeling because you feel honored, but it’s mixed. One, you don’t want to say no, and then on the other hand you don’t want to seem like you want the attention. That why I say that they will be honoring me, and I appreciate it, but I will be standing up there for all soldiers. It will be more than just about me.”
Silvestri, 36, was a notable running back at Revere High School and went on to have a career in the military.
In August 2008, , during his first firefight in Afghanistan, Silvestri showed the enemy what he was made of.
During that morning, his squad and a group of Afghanistan military men came under fire suddenly by insurgents.
Silvestri’s first lieutenant was pinned down with gunfire and everyone was trapped. Taking brave action, Silvestri ran out into the open, straight into machine gun fire, and killed all three insurgents while also rescuing 31 of his fellow soldiers.
It was an act of utmost courage and he was later awarded the coveted Bronze Star with Valor for his acts – along with the Purple Heart.
He is one of the most decorated war heroes in Revere history.
Silvestri is very humble about his accomplishments in Afghanistan, saying that such things are viewed differently afterward than they are in the moment.
“From my personal story, there was no heroism mapped out,” he said. “I just wanted to go home that day with all my guys and survive to see the next day. That was really it. I never thought of it as heroic.”
Certainly, though, everyone else will as Silvestri, Eileen Merullo and Stephen Leon.
Merullo served in a supportive role at Walter Reed Medical Center during World War II as a physical therapist. Last year, she single-handedly put together the research and funding to erect a memorial in Revere to all the women who served in such roles during World War II.
Leon, 54, is a decorated Army Specialist that grew up in Chelsea and has lived in Revere for many years.
During Leon’s last tour, which ended for him in 2011, he was injured while stopping the attack of five suicide bombers on a sleepy military camp near Kabul, Afghanistan.
It was the middle of the night on April 2, 2011 when – out of the darkness – a planned attack came knocking at the main entrance of Camp Phoenix.
Leon and another soldier were the only ones standing in the way.
Raining down on them was small arms fire, hand grenades, rifle-fired grenades and suicide insurgents. The attack was meant to get the suicide bombers past the entrance and into the barracks of the sleeping soldiers – where five bombers planned to detonate exploding vests.
“There were 8,700 soldiers behind us and they were all sleeping in the middle of the night, so we figured it was going to be our time to die because we weren’t going to let them get to those 8,700 sleeping soldiers,” recalled Leon. “My partner got hit and I said to him, ‘Just keep shooting because if they get by us, it’s all done.’ I got blown up, but we stopped them.”
According to his commendation letter from the Army, despite being rocked by multiple explosions, Leon was able to gather himself and deliver lethal shots to the attackers and to the suicide bombers who had not yet detonated their vests.
All three will be prominently honored over the weekend, and will be present during veterans’ parade at the Opening Ceremonies with Mayor Dan Rizzo.