PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The parents of Sgt. Michael Paranzino say they're grateful for the comfort Rhode Islanders have been giving them since their son died last week in Afghanistan.
Paranzino was an Army scout from Middletown and the 23rd Rhode Islander to die from a combat-related injury since 9/11.
Wearing his dog tags, Melane Paranzino remembers her son Michael as someone who kept life interesting, she smiles and then laughter punctures the grief as she her husband Butch recall his hockey nickname, Crash.
"Well, we called him Crash, because he never learned how to stop," said Butch Paranzino." So he would go after the puck, he would go after the guy and if he caught him, he caught him because he couldn't stop."
Paranzino also played soccer, was an excellent archer, but not particularly sporty in high school. His gift, says his dad, was reaching out to others.
"When he saw somebody who has having a rough time and wasn't fitting in, that was the person he brought over and said here's my new friend," said Paranzino.
His kindness wasn't forgotten.
"We've gotten more than one call of people that he's done that with saying, I can't tell you what he did for me when other people wouldn't give me the time of day.'"
After high school, his son was looking to get his life in order and joined the Army. Every time they saw him, they could see a stronger respect for hard work and discipline. Paranzino believed in serving his country and the mission he was on.
He also had a way with children. His dad wasn't surprised to hear that when Paranzino was in Iraq, kids would gather around chanting the nickname "Zino"
"He'd be walking through the village during the day and the kids would hold on to his leg and walk and he'd let them put their hands in his pocket to take the candy out of his pockets," he said.
Paranzino had children of his own, a 9-year-old step son and a 2-and-a-half-year-old son. Parents Butch and Melane find comfort that a piece of their son lives on in their grandson. And they want his other legacy to be a spirit of embracing challenges.
"I think the best way we honor Michael, is that when we have our own challenges, we do the best we can just like he did the best he could and he succeeded," said Paranzino. "And when we succeed with our challenges here day to day that will reinforce what he lived for and what he died for."
The Paranzino's just said good-bye to their son at the airport three weeks ago. This was his second deployment, and his birthday was coming up in about a month. Michael Paranzino was 22-years-old.
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