Whether he was setting up tiny army men, practicing to be a Ninja Turtle, or playing in paintball wars, Beachmont’s Rafael Sabatino has always been a soldier.
This week, Pvt. Rafael Sabatino – of the 101st Division Airborne Screaming Eagles – will finally be a combat soldier, as he ships out to Afghanistan as part of one of the largest Massachusetts deployments since World War II.
His mother, Mary Cannon of Everard Street, told the Journal that Sabatino left last week to report for training. He will leave for Afghanistan shortly, and will be stationed at Forward Operating Base Wilson.
“That’s where he’s going and that’s where all these soldiers are now that are trying so hard to get control of that place,” she said. “He’ll do well. He just better come back with both arms and both legs intact.”
Sabatino joined the Army one year ago, after graduating from Revere High School in 2008. He also attended Pope John High School in Everett for two years, and the Garfield and Beachmont Schools for elementary and middle school.
His mother said that he joined the Army because she kept badgering him to either get a job or join the military.
“It was me screaming at him to either get a job or join the service,” said Cannon. “He came home one day and said he joined the Army and I turned around and said, ‘I didn’t really mean to join the Army. I just wanted you to get a job.’ Raphael’s been a soldier all his life since he was a kid, so I’m not surprised.”
Cannon added that she is glad her son was able to get out of Beachmont Square and get his life together.
“He’s a lucky kid because he found himself,” she said. “Most of his friends didn’t. They’re still sitting around sleeping most days and playing video games. He turned out to be a great kid.”
In her home, Cannon and her husband, Ralph Sabatino, keep pictures of Raphael taking his first communion, and of him in his Little League uniform. There are photos of him on his first day of school at the Garfield and of him playing youth soccer.
There are also pictures of his grandfather, Ralph, in full military uniform during World War II.
Cannon remembers how he was a great skateboarder, and how many of the kids in the neighborhood looked up to him because he could perform daring tricks.
Such memories, accompanied by the clear danger that Sabatino is headed into, leads a mother to fret, and Cannon is no exception.
She said she supports her son fully, but is concerned.
“I’m happy because this is what he wants to do,” said Cannon. “I have to be behind him on this. I have to also wonder what’s going to come of all this – if anything will ever come of what’s going on over there. I’m just happy for my son.”
Sabatino, 20, is engaged to Carissa Leone of East Boston, and is the son of Cannon and Ralph Sabatino – both of Everard Avenue.