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Remembering sailor killed in Iraq ten years ago

Brighton, N.Y. -- Nicole Pernaselli has her father's eyes. Dominique has his smile. Yet, most of the memories of their dad come from photos and the stories of others. There isn't much they can actually recall.

"When people are talking about the fun things that they do with their dad, I think of how I missed that and never got to do that," says Dominique. 

The girls are growing up without their father. 

Michael Pernaselli was killed while serving in Iraq 10 years ago.

His girls are now teenagers and help remind us of the ultimate sacrifice of not only service men and women, but their families.  

"I pray that he's up there and that he is watching over us," said Nicole.

Dominique and Nicole were three and four years old when Michael's life was stolen by a suicide bomber.  

"I first saw it on the internet that two sailors were killed," said their grandfather, recalling that day. "I just had a stomach ache and searched over and over for names."

John Pernaselli would get the news of his son's death days later, on a Saturday that he cannot forget.  

"It seems like it just happened. Here it is ten years and it's like it's happening now," John Pernaselli said.

John Pernaselli raised all boys. Two went to Iraq - only one returned home. 

Now, the grandparents are raising their granddaughters.  

"It hurts.  He's not going to be able to see the girls graduate or be around. And he was such a great father to them," Pernaselli said.

On this anniversary, John Pernaselli finds solace behind Brighton Town Hall, on a bench that was dedicated to his son. He is a frequent visitor here. 

"It's peaceful, it really is," he said. "He's up there and I know he can watch the progress and give them guidance too."

For Dominique and Nicole, comfort comes from the "Daddy pillow." Someone transferred their father's photo to a pillow soft enough for hugs.  

"When I look at his picture, I feel sad, but I also feel happy that he died doing something that he loved," said Nicole. "He helped our country be the way it is now. To help us to be free."

His girls have his eyes and his smile, but they face with world with a little something else they inherited:  His bravery.  

"He left us physically but he's still here in my heart and that won't go away," said Dominique.

Family and friends are planning a memorial golf tournament to remember Michael on Memorial Day weekend. It will be held at Webster Golf Club at 1:30 with dinner and music to follow.


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Washington Times