Military Couple Wed By Mayor Levine Surprises Him With Gift From Afghanistan

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Mayor Brian Levine (R) holds the gift he was given at the April 22 Township Council meeting by a military couple he wed in 2011.

A township military couple wed by Mayor Brian Levine in 2011 surprised the Mayor at the April 22 Township Council meeting with a commemorative plaque from Afghanistan.

Army Sgt. Santos Avilez and his wife, Air Force Sgt. Grisselle Avilez, presented Levine with the plaque during the meeting’s public portion.

The plaque includes a flag flown in a combat mission over Kandahar, Afghanistan, two military “challenge coins” from Afghanistan and a certificate explaining the significance of the items.

Santos Avilez said the couple remembered the “kind words” that Levine said to them when they were married in 2011, and they wanted a way to show their thanks.

“He really touched me with the kind words he said afterword,” Avilez said, noting that some wedding officiants sinply rush the married couple away when the ceremony is over.

“He spent some time with us, giving us encouragement,” Avilez said of Levine.

“He even walked us to our car,” Grisselle Avilez said.

Santos Avilez was deployed to Afghanistan with the New York Army National Guard’s 27th Brigade Combat Team shortly after he was married, and did not return for a year.

“Wen I was over in Afghanistan, some of the guys were getting plaques for people who were important in their lives,” he said. “The only one I could think of was Mayor Levine. We always talk about him.”

Avilez bought an American flag and had it flown over Afghanistan in a C-27J Spartan aircraft in June of 2012, on the last combat mission of that particular aircraft.

Levine was visibly moved by the gift.

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U.S. Air Force Sgt. Grisselle Avilez, center, presents Mayor Brian Levine with a commemorative plaque. Behind her is her husband, U.S. Army Sgt. Santos Avilez.

“I am so touched by this,” he said. “It will hang in an honored place for as long as I’m around.”



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