Miami police officer receives warm welcome home after Afghanistan deployment

A Miami police officer received a warm welcome home Friday following a lengthy tour of duty in Afghanistan.

“(I) never felt this special before,” Sgt. Roselyn Paz said.  

Paz just spent a year away from home. It was her second tour of duty overseas.

Naturally, her family was excited and relieved to have her back home and is proud of all her accomplishments. 

“It’s a big day for everybody because everybody knows the sacrifice that she does for our family, for the city of Miami, for the police station, for the department — everything,” Roselyn Paz’s brother, John Paz, said. “That means a lot to us, that means a lot to them, and to her. She’s putting a great effort into this country.”

When Roselyn Paz isn’t overseas fighting for our country, she is fighting crime with the Miami Police Department. 

The 26-year-old Hialeah native has been on the force for three years, and her brothers and sisters in blue showed up at Miami International Airport to welcome her home.

“This is super overwhelming. I’ve never had these many cameras in my face before, but it’s pretty cool,” Paz said.  

Paz joined the U.S. Army as an 18-year-old right out of high school and quickly rose up the ranks to become a sergeant.

She said she doesn’t see herself as a hero and is just doing what she’s always dreamed of, which is helping others whether it’s here at home or abroad.

“I’m happy to be home,” she said.  

Paz said the first thing she’s going to do when she gets home is eat her mom’s home cooking, and she’s in luck. Her family planned a big welcome home party with lots of food and festivities. 


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Billionaire US explorer discovers sunken WWII aircraft carrier

Wreckage from the USS Lexington — a US aircraft carrier sunk by the Japanese during World War II — has been discovered 500 miles off the Australian coast by a team of explorers led by billionaire Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder announced on Monday.

One of the first US aircraft carriers ever built, the vessel dubbed “Lady Lex” was located at the bottom of the Coral Sea — nearly two miles below the surface — by the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel on Sunday, Allen said.

The Lexington was lost in May 1942 along with 216 of its crew and 35 aircraft during what is considered the first carrier battle in history — the Battle of the Coral Sea.

“To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honor,” Allen said in a statement. “As Americans, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who served and who continue to serve our country for their courage, persistence and sacrifice.”

Along with the USS Yorktown, the Lexington and its fleet faced off against three Japanese aircraft carriers and is credited with helping to stop Japan’s advances on New Guinea and Australia.

The battle occurred just one month before the US Navy “surprised Japanese forces at the Battle of Midway and turned the tide of the war in the Pacific for good,” according to Allen.

“The Battle of the Coral Sea was notable not only for stopping a Japanese advance but because it was the first naval engagement in history where opposing ships never came within sight of each other,” read the statement from Allen.

US ships were able to rescue more than 2,000 sailors before the Lexington ultimately sank from the damage sustained from a bombardment of Japanese torpedoes.

“As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel for locating the “Lady Lex,” sunk nearly 76 years ago at the Battle of Coral Sea,” Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris of US Pacific Command said Monday in a statement.

“We honor the valor and sacrifice of the ‘Lady Lex’s’ sailors — all those Americans who fought in World War II — by continuing to secure the freedoms they won for all of us,” he said.

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Local 10 News’ Jacey Birch wants South Florida animal lovers to join her team

The Humane Society of Broward County will be hosting their annual Walk for the Animals Saturday morning in Fort Lauderdale. 

This year’s cover dog for the event is Ruby, a 3-year-old Australian Shepherd from Hollywood, who will appear on walk brochures and posters.

The event’s goal is to raise $575K for the shelter, veterinarian services and educational programs. As of Friday afternoon, the non-profit organization had about $428K. 

Registration begins at 8 a.m. at the Huizenga Plaza, 32 E. Las Olas. The 1.25-mile walk is from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information or to donate to the effort, click here for Birch’s donor drive page. 

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EMT grad meets EMT who saved his life when he was a baby

Twenty-two years ago, Joseph Bitetto’s mother went into labor prematurely. EMTs raced to her home, administered first aid and rushed her to the hospital.

“There was blood everywhere, on the ground, on the toilet… My mom was bleeding out profusely,” Bitetto told CNN. “If the EMTs didn’t act accordingly and fast, she was in danger and I was in danger.”

Both mother and child survived. Bitetto’s grateful father thanked the doctors and police. But in the midst of chaos, he never got a chance to thank the medics.

Bitetto is now an EMT himself. And when he walked on to the stage last week to receive his diploma from the New York Fire Department, he finally met the man who saved his life.

Father put regret in writing

As his son neared completion of EMT training, Bitetto’s father wrote a letter to the academy expressing regret that he never thanked the rescuers.

The fire department figured out Howard Blanck was one of the EMTs, and brought him up on stage at graduation.

“It’s pretty cool to see that you had an impact on someone’s life,” Blanck said. “It’s nice to see after all this time, the family is doing well and he is doing well and that he took it on as a profession.”

Blanck, now a New York City police detective, said he was nervous to meet the family he helped save. It was a packed graduation and only a handful of people knew about the surprise.

Bitetto always knew his entrance into the world was “messy,” but he didn’t know the details until his reunion with Blanck.

“My mom and dad would always say, ‘You’ve been fighting since day one.’ I always thought that meant I was tough from day one, but they said I was literally fighting for my life,” Bitetto said.

The new EMT said he finds deep motivation from the fact that he and the man who saved his life chose the same career.

“I think about it a lot,” Bitetto said. “Because of this man, I’m a healthy man and now I have the opportunity to make sure I help people.”

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Soldier, immigrant from Ghana, died rescuing neighbors in Bronx fire

Private Emmanuel Mensah went off to serve in the Army National Guard, but it was back home where he made the ultimate sacrifice.

Mensah died trying to rescue people from his burning apartment building last month in the Bronx, New York, in the city’s deadliest fire in more than 25 years, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Mensah, 28, had immigrated from Ghana in Africa and was a permanent legal resident in the US. His story has taken on new meaning in the wake of President Donald Trump’s reported vulgar comments about immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and some African countries.

“Why do we want all these people from sh–hole countries coming here?” Trump told senators in the Oval Office, a source briefed on the meeting told CNN.

Trump denied using that language in a tweet Friday morning.

Mensah’s sister, Vanessa, said the Army private would have been sad to hear Trump’s comments.

“You cut me right now, you’ll see blood coming out,” she said. “We’re all God’s people.”

As Mensah’s father tells it, Mensah went back into the burning building twice on December 28 to rescue neighbors. But he did not make it out alive.

“Emmanuel was a kind person. He wanted to help people. I wasn’t surprised when he did do these things,” Kwabena Mensah said.

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper approved the posthumous award of The Soldier’s Medal for Mensah. The medal is the Army’s highest award for heroism that occurs outside of combat, according to the National Guard.

“Private 1st Class Mensah’s heroic actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military heroism and selfless service and reflect great credit upon himself, the New York Army National Guard and the United States Army,” the award citation says.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the award of the New York State Medal for Valor on Mensah on January 2. That award also represents New York state’s highest military award for acts of heroism on and off the battlefield, the National Guard said.

“His courageous and selfless act in the face of unimaginable conditions are consistent with the highest traditions of uniformed service and deserving of the highest possible recognition,” Mensah’s citation says.

Staff Sgt. Ruben Martinez-Ortiz, who recruited him, praised Mensah in a statement to the New York National Guard.

“I knew from the moment I met him his heart was as big as our National Guard family,” Martinez-Ortiz said. “He was ready to serve our nation and community. Pfc. Mensah was the embodiment of what our Army values stand for.”

Mensah, 28, was stationed in Virginia. He had come to the US about five years ago with the dream of joining the Army, his family said.

A private first class in the New York National Guard, he had just graduated from boot camp after starting basic training in the fall, spokesman Eric Durr said. He was slated to go to advanced individual training in 2018. He was training to be a military police officer, a role that offers a variety of potential responsibilities, from garrison law enforcement to security in the field.

Fire starts in kitchen

Mensah’s visit was his first back to the Bronx in the year since he enlisted in the National Guard, his father said. He was in the building when the fire broke out.

A child playing with a kitchen stove started the fire, which quickly spread through the 29-unit building. The fire killed 13 people, including four children.

A 3-year-old boy’s screams alerted his mother that a fire had erupted in their apartment in the building’s first floor. The boy was playing with the burners on the kitchen stove, officials said. As his mother fled the burning apartment with him and his sibling, she left the apartment door open, a move that would prove fatal.

Each time someone opened a window, oxygen rushed into the building, fanning the flames. The apartment’s stairway acted like a chimney as the fire burst from the apartment, feeding the flames and allowing them to spread throughout the building, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Anchor tears up over story

CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota became emotional Friday on air while recounting Mensah’s story.

As part of a panel, Camerota pulled up a tweet from conservative commentator Bill Kristol, who had cited Mensah’s story. The tweet went viral and was even retweeted by Hillary Clinton.

Camerota had to stop for a moment as she began to read the tweet.

“I don’t know why this one makes me so emotional, but it does,” Camerota said.

The tweet stated that Mensah was from a country Trump “apparently thinks produces very subpar immigrants.”

‘God is in control’

Kwabena Mensah learned from others that his son helped others to safety. He went out and back twice, but “on the third time he couldn’t find his way out,” he said.

“I thought as a military man he may have gotten out already,” he said Friday. “But like I said, God is in control.”

It came as little surprise to Mensah’s father that he came to the aid of others. “That’s his nature: He wants to help people out,” Kwabena Mensah told CNN.

Since his son’s death, Kwabena Mensah has received a flood of support from people around the country.

“All over America people are sending post cards from Chicago, or Washington. I don’t know them but they are all contributing and telling me good things about my son,” he said.

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For nearly 50 years, two Vietnam vets kept alive a New Year’s Eve pact

Hunkered in a Vietnam bunker, with rockets and mortar shells raining down, the two Marines made a pact.

It was New year’s Eve, 1968. And they promised that if they survived the war and made it home alive, the two would call each other every New Year’s Eve.

And they did. For nearly half a century, Master Sgt. William Cox and Sgt. James Hollingsworth checked up on each other.

But on Sunday, Cox will ring in the New Year alone.

His friend “Hollie” died in October. He was 80 years old.


A promise made

Cox and Hollingsworth flew missions together as helicopter door gunners. On the ground in Vietnam, Hollingsworth helped maintain the choppers. Cox kept track of ammunition.

In the midst of war, their friendship was a refuge.

“Hollie and I, we had our antics to relieve the tension,” Cox said. They told each other things they didn’t tell anyone else.

“Sometimes we would laugh, sometimes we would cry.

“‘You know me better than my family,'” Cox recalls Hollingsworth telling him.

A promise kept

Hollingsworth or “Hollie” moved to Georgia after his tour in Vietnam.

Cox stayed in the Marine Corps, serving 20 years.

Early this year, Cox went to Georgia to visit his friend.

It was clear there wouldn’t be a New Years phone call on the 50th year of their pact.

Hollingsworth was terminally ill and asked his battle buddy to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.

“After I left his house, I broke down,” Cox recalled. “Not about what he asked me to do, but that he was going to be checking out of life, and I was going to be a part of his departure. But I was obligated.”

A final farewell

In October, Cox fulfilled that final promise. He gave Hollingsworth’s eulogy and then stood vigil beside the coffin.

“I wanted to be with him as long as I could,” he said. “If it had been me, he would have been standing there.”

The Marine Corps motto is “Semper Fidelis,” Latin for “always faithful,” and those words resounded as Cox stood by Hollingsworth one last time.

He ended the eulogy with a phrase the two used to repeat: “Hollie, you keep ’em flying, and I’ll keep ’em firing.”

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