Richmond Police Officer Nick Castrinos serves at home and abroad

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s Hero Day at the Richmond Home and Garden Show.

As a result, active and retired military personnel and first responders get in free Friday with their i.d.’s.

8News Anchor Christina Feerick highlighted one active military member in our community: Richmond Police Officer Nick Castrinos.

Castrinos was 16 when 9-11 happened.

“I went home, told my father I was going to drop out of high school and join the Army and go fight in Afghanistan,” he told 8News.

Dad slowed things down.

“He said I could join the National Guard and I was going to school and that was the way we came to an agreement,” he said.

Now 32, Castrinos has been called to combat three times: once in Afghanistan and twice in Iraq.

“I’ve had friends who died when I’ve been close,” he said.

Castrinos has also been called to missions close to home.

“I’ve done two snow missions … is what we call them,” he said. “In Roanoke/Charlottesville area just to help local officials with what they needed.”

His day job as a Richmond Police officer is also a calling. He’s been attacked on duty and injured several times.

“I’ve had citizens die right next to me,” he said. “I’ve saved citizens lives.”

8News asked Castrinos what drives him and millions others like him to do what they do.

He said he does it because he believes in America and in preserving institutions that protect our freedoms.

“We all have to work to have the framework in place,” he said. “In the long run, that’s what makes America great, that I can make a choice different from you.”

And on Military Appreciation Day what does he ask in return?

“Just a thank you, that’s it,” he said. “I don’t need 10 percent off my meal, I don’t need a free cup of coffee … just say thanks.”

Thank you, Sgt. Castrino, and thanks to all who sacrifice to serve.

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