When 18-year-old Franklin Square native Daniel Artino returned to the Little Pebbles preschool in East Rockaway on Dec. 12, where he had attended and where his mother, Carole, still works as a teacher, it looked largely the same.
Some furniture had moved, and it seemed a bit smaller, he noted, but otherwise, “It was like a flashback.”
A Marine private — now that he has completed basic training — Artino, upon his arrival, was greeted by dozens of smiling children, who recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang “My Country Tis of Thee,” saluted him and showered him in red, white and blue confetti cut from sheets of paper themselves.
“They were very enthusiastic,” Artino said. “They showed a lot of emotion, and they got to have fun with it.”
“Believe it or not, it was actually the kids’ idea,” his mother — who had served as Artino’s teacher at Little Pebbles 14 years prior — said. They decided to throw a reception for the returning Marine when while practicing the pledge, Carole mentioned how much her son might enjoy hearing them recite it to him.
“The boys and girls said we should decorate and have a party [for him],” she recalled. “So I ran with their idea.”
Artino said that since childhood, he had always looked up to the Marines, but was unsure if he was capable of actually serving, until a recruiter contacted him and encouraged him to enlist.
“They said if you think something is impossible it’s not,” he recalled. “It’s completely possible.”
Joyce Terry, director of the pre school expressed pride that as an alumnus of Little Pebbles, Artino would take what he learned there and go on to serve his country.
“He wanted to come back and say thank you,” she said. “It was an homage, to say everything from [his] childhood really impacted [his] decision to serve the country and be an honorable person.”
Artino is scheduled to return to Parris Island, South Carolina to continue training at the beginning of January after which, he said, he will be assigned to his role in the Marines.