By Virginia N. Sherry, with Tom Flannagan Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On the morning of September 11, 2001, Bryan D. Dilberian, Jr. was wearing his Junior ROTC uniform in Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton High School when one of the two airplanes that were bound for the Twin Towers flew over the school.
The terror attacks changed his life.
“I felt it was my duty, as a Brooklyn boy, to bring the fight back to their (the terrorists’) home,” Dilberian said.
Almost a decade later, while on a 30-hour foot patrol with his U.S. Army unit in Afghanistan’s Arghandab River Valley, west of Khandahar, Dilberian lost his left arm and both legs after stepping on a 40-pound improvised explosive device after the unit was attacked with small-arms fire on July 1, 2011, killing one of his comrades instantly.
Dilberian — who was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star — has since endured 25 surgeries, but proudly took his first step on Aug. 27, 2011, less than two months after the attack claimed his limbs.
Now 27 years old, the combat veteran, a Brooklyn native, played the links Monday with his muscular right arm at Silver Lake Golf Course, as part of the Sixth Annual Veterans Day Golf Tournament hosted by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation at four borough courses.
The event raises funds for the foundation’s Building for America’s Bravest program that builds homes across the country for wounded U.S. service members like Dilberian.
The foundation plans to build a “smart” home for Dilberian on Staten Island, where he said that he has “cousins and uncles, from South Beach to Tottenville.”
“Nothing stops me,” said the matter-of-fact Dilberian, who made his first-ever birdie Monday, on the fourth hole at Silver Lake. On Sunday, he participated in the Hope for Warriors 10K run in Babylon, L.I., finishing in 57 minutes.
“I gave up my legs and my arm for my country, and I’m not done yet,” he vowed.
“There is somebody up there with a plan for me, and I can’t wait to find out what it is,” added Dilberian, who was born and raised in the Kensington section of Brooklyn and now lives in an apartment in Dyker Heights in that borough.
A full field of 144 golfers turned out Monday at Silver Lake, with the same number at Richmond County Country Club and La Tourette Golf Course, and another 20 at South Shore Country Club.
One of the highlights of the play at La Tourette and RCCC was the addition of professionals from the Re-Max Long Drive Tour, amazing even the strongest of local players with drives of the ball an average of 355 yards into the wind.
DINNER AND CEREMONIES
Following the golf tournament, Dilberian and more than 700 guests — including many Staten Island veterans and their families — gathered in Nicotra’s Ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn for cocktails and dinner.
The dinner featured a Wall of Honor display recognizing U.S. heroes, as well as a tribute to the memory of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, 24, of New Dorp, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 28. Ollis’ family and fellow soldiers from FortDrum attended.