Army Sgt. Alessandro Leonard Plutino, known to all who knew him as “Sandrino,” was killed in action last Aug. 8 in the Paktia province of Afghanistan during small arms fire while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
A member of the lst Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, 3rd Squad, Bravo Company, Sandrino died two weeks before his 29th birthday while on his unit’s final mission before finishing his sixth deployment three each in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Townspeople by the hundreds were among the legions of mourners who came to pay their respects at services held at his Pitman High School alma mater. Sandrino is buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Washington Township.
But the lifelong Pitman resident’s memory will endure through a benefit golf tournament, “Honoring Sandrino’s Sacrifice,” scheduled for Friday, May 4 at Pitman Golf Course in Mantua Township.
The course has been booked all day with expectations for a huge turnout. In the 17-year history of the course under county ownership, this will mark the first double shotgun format for the same event.
“Sandrino was awesome and he was like a son to me,” says Reed Layton, committee chair for the tournament. Layton, senior director of Public Safety at Rowan University, is also the father of Natalie Layton, Sandrino’s fiance.
Adds Reed, “It’s important to get the word out how much he still means to all of us. He loved his country so much. This tournament will be held in recognition of what all military personnel are willing to sacrfice. It’s for all the fallen soldiers and their families. Lots of people suffer.”
Layton says he “couldn’t believe” the turnout for Sandrino’s services, reenforcing just how close-knit the community of Pitman is.
Frank Byers gets credit for the idea for a golf tournament.
“Once the funeral was over, it became important to keep Sandrino’s memory alive,” Byers said. “This is one way to do it. We’re hoping to see it take off. It’s a way to help other soldiers on an ongoing basis.”
Because Sandrino was loved and respected by his “brothers,” the committee feels the best way to honor his commitment and sacrifice is twofold: By giving back to the special operations community and recognizing his hometown of Pitman.
Therefore, the first tournament will support the Lead the Way Fund, Sua Sponte and Specialops.org and possibly fund a scholarship in Sandrino’s name to a graduating PHS student.
The tournament brochure explains the reasoning behind the planned dispersement of funds: “Few people outside the special operations community know the work that these gallant young people do for them and what they give up to serve. The special operations group, which includes the Army Rangers, have been on the front lines in this war against terror facing hardships unimaginable to most for little or no recognition. They do so for America, yes, but especially for those beside them. They are truly a Band of Brothers.”
Among those who have indicated they’ll attend Sandrino’s tournament in some capacity are Army Rangers from around the country. Special events within the tournament are being planned.
“We’re hoping the tournament is able to raise funds to help the military,” says Dianne Hammond, Sandrino’s mother. “I think he would have been as amazed as I’ve been by all who paid their respects and those who are supporting the tournaament. I know I’ve been amazed.
“I’m very overwhelmed and thankful. Sandrino really was a great guy who loved his famiily, his friends, his country, and his fellow Rangers.”
Says Natalie Layton, “I think it’s wonderful we’ll be able to carry on his legacy this way. Hopefully, it’s something we’ll be able to continue.”
Natalie remembers Sandrino for his fierce determination.
“We balanced each other out. He was really the one who captured the room when he walked in. His strength gets me through the days. He’d want me to live my life.” Natalie talked to Sandrino twice the day he died.
“He told me this was his worst deployment…”
After 10 years together, they were going to be married this August 31.
Cost of entering the scramble tournament is $110 for morning golfers, $125 for afternoon players. Included are all golf amenities, awards for three winning teams, chance to win a car, skill prizes, lunch for the am crowd and dinner for pm entries at Bogey’s tent. Shotgun start at 8 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. Cost for lunch only guests in $25 per person, $40 for dinner only. Limit of 124 golfers on both shifts.
Sponorships are available ranging from $75 tee sponsors to $2,500 for platinum sponsors.
For golf inquiries, call 856-779-7738. For sponsorship inquiries, call 302-420-6267.
Make checks payable to “Honoring Sandrino’s Sacrifice Fund” and mail to P.O. Box 281, Pitman, 08071.
For more information or to register online, visit Honoringsandrinossacrificefund.com.
Committee members include Diane Hammond, Frank Byers, Dennis Clowney, Chris MacGuigan, Michael MacGuigan, Danny Outten, Shawn Allen, Charlie Malson, and Mario Matta.