CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Sept. 11, 2001, was Hugh Cuturia’s 8th birthday.
“I think that’s when it actually struck,” said his father, Brian LaPointe, a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. “He was up, looking around for his presents. He came and got me and said something’s wrong. I think it brought him to want to join the Marine Corps.”
Cuturia is now 18, a Marine lance corporal serving on the front lines in Helmand province, Afghanistan, with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
“This is his very first time away from the family over the holidays,” said LaPointe, a native of El Paso, Texas. “But in a way it’s not, because he’s got me out here.”
Separated by just a stretch of Afghan desert, the father and son have been able to visit a couple of times since LaPointe arrived in theater in September.
“It’s a lot of fun seeing him,” LaPointe said. “I can see him wondering, ‘Do I say Dad or Gunny?’”
“I’ll settle for anything,” LaPointe added, “I love the kid to death.”
As an infantryman, Cuturia patrols a region that includes Afghanistan’s Marjah district. Once a hotbed of insurgent violence, Marjah and the outlaying areas in southwestern Afghanistan have recently shown signs of tremendous progress.
“I don’t like the job he’s doing now, but a year ago it would have been a lot worse,” said LaPointe, the motor transportation company first sergeant for Marine Wing Support Squadron 371.
Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 provides aviation ground support for coalition aircraft in southwestern Afghanistan, so much of LaPointe’s work focuses on supporting frontline infantrymen like his son.
“We’ll do convoys out to him and his guys,” LaPointe said. “Everything that needs to get moved, everything that needs to be transported from site to site, we take care of it all.”
LaPointe said having his son enter “the family business” has done great things for his character.
“As soon as he finished boot camp, he started talking like a man,” LaPointe said. “The Marine Corps gave him that boost, it was what he needed to grow up.”
Now father and son are together in Afghanistan, working as part of a coalition of NATO and Afghan forces determined to bring peace to the region.
“It’s kind of weird seeing him,” said LaPointe. “A couple of years ago, he was scared, driving a little Pontiac Fiero I bought him for his birthday. Now he’s driving the lead vehicle on convoys.”
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