It's Christmas in Kandahar, and infantry soldiers known as the "Regulars By God!" examine a recently delivered large box. The soldiers tear the cardboard, excited to know what lies inside. It's a cornucopia of necessities and niceties deodorant and hot chocolate, toothpaste and candy, beef jerky and underwear. It's all complements of the Weston Fire Department, and all thanks to Joe Rainone and his son, Philip.
"You can't just go to the store and buy" these items in Afghanistan, Rainone said at the Norfield fire station. "You can imagine how hard it would be."
The father-and-son team came up with the idea to adopt the platoon in the fall after talking with Gil Sanborn, organizer of the Weston Supports the Troops program.
Each month, firefighters and their families send eight or more boxes loaded with goodies bound for Southeast Asia. Philip, 16, recently put a collection box at the high school's main office for students and staff to contribute.
"We really want to get everyone involved," Philip said.
In December, the fire department received warm appreciations from Army Lt. Colonel Padgett through a live Skype feed. "There wasn't a dry eye in the room," Joe said.
Joe has volunteered in Weston for six years, and Philip is a junior firefighter. When he graduates in 2012, Philip hopes to attend the Army's West Point Academy. Both of them have a strong patriotic core.
"After 9-11, I really wanted to give back," Joe said. "After seeing how the emergency responders handled themselves [in New York], it really inspired me [to volunteer]."
When he's not putting out fires, Joe makes toys for Melissa & Doug LLC in Wilton. He and his wife, Catherine, enjoy performances by the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra, which includes Philip on violin.
Joe and Catherine have been married 21 years and have three children: Philip, James and Elizabeth. The Rainones have lived in Weston since 2002 and don't intend on leaving any time soon unless it's for a movie.
"We really love going to the movies," Joe said. "It's something we like to do as a family."
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