ALGONQUIN – Apache helicopter pilot and Algonquin native Kyle Tomasino was welcomed home Saturday by family, friends and a large group of leather-clad bikers.
An Army captain, Tomasino recently finished a yearlong tour in Afghanistan. He’s home for two weeks before returning to Fort Bragg, N.C.
The Warriors Watch Riders surprised Tomasino with a two-wheeled escort to Algonquin’s Golf Club of Illinois and a party in his honor. But the biggest surprise was when the USO and his family greeted the solider at his O’Hare International Airport gate earlier in the day.
“I had no idea,” Tomasino said.
His mother, Kathy, added: “When we pulled up we were shocked. We knew there’d be some riders, but I didn’t know there’d be that many.”
At the golf club, friend Jesica Perrone, who is dating Tomasino’s brother, Cory, offered the 26-year-old soldier a celebratory drink – a peach Long Island. The fruity cocktail wasn’t what the soldier expected, but he took it in stride.
“I’d prefer a beer, actually,” he said, smiling.
Now that he’s home, Tomasino said he plans to relax with friends and get an oft-missed home cooked meal. Of course there will be a visit to his favorite local Mexican restaurant, too, he said.
While stationed in eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border, Tomasino’s missions were to protect soldiers on the ground. “We saw a lot of enemy activity,” he said.
Tomasino’s entire unit made it back safely, but two men in a sister unit were injured when their aircraft’s engine failed, he said.
He said he always knew he wanted to be a pilot and saw the military as the perfect outlet to do so. Since graduating from Jacobs High School in 2004, Tomasino, who was described by his friends as family as “driven,” went to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, where he graduated in the top of his class.
In the Army’s flight school, Tomasino again rose to the top of his class and was a distinguished honor graduate, meaning he was able to choose the aircraft he would later fly. He chose the $32 million Apache helicopter.
He is the son of Rob and Kathy Tomasino, of Algonquin.