MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- After two years spent in Afghanistan, Victor Piacente is happy to be home with his wife Jackie and daughters Sienna and Ella, who clapped for their hero at the American Legion Post 90's Veterans Day ceremony Friday.
In his keynote speech to a crowd of fellow veterans, dignitaries and family Friday morning, the Mamaroneck resident addressed the nation's debts, the largest of which, he said, is the one owed to its veterans. "We all here deserve the nation's highest honor," he said. "Why? Because it's all of you here today that are honoring the veterans."
Long before Piacente joined the war on terror, he was a member of the Marine Corps from 1988 to 1993. After his service, which involved a stint in Desert Storm with the Surveillance Target Acquisition Platon (STA), he pursued a law degree at Touro Law School on Long Island.
Piacente started practicing law in 2000, but was quickly drawn back to the line of duty after Sept. 11, 2001. In 2004, he reinlisted, and in January 2006, he landed in the Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan with the Army National Guard. With his background in law, he was tasked with re-training the province's judges and lawyers in democratic law. "Their laws, believe it or not, were very similar to those in the U.S.," said Piacente, referring to their constitutional law.
The Afghan religious law, which some provinces followed in lieu of the constitutional law under the Taliban, was a different story. "The experience was difficult to describe because you didn't know human beings could live like that or be treated like that," he said. "If you weren't with the Taliban, you were tortured."
Piacente described the process of training the Afghan people to run their own government as difficult, after years of segmentation within the country. "We were trying to unify them to bring them back in concert with using one law, and that process was a difficult task after so many years of segmentation," he said.
Piacente returned in 2008, having seen more combat and casualties than he would have liked, but not as much progress as he hoped. "It remains that bad," he said. "Until that government gets back on track, there's nothing another country can do. They have to want it."
After Friday's ceremony, Piacente and his family had breakfast with fellow veterans and their families at the American Legion Post.
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