BROOKFIELD -- While Bill Perrone works at the 9/11 site in New York City, his son, Mike, serves with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan.
"All the guys in the union ask how he's doing," Bill Perrone said. "Guys that have been in the military and are now working at the site ask me about him."
The events of the place where his father works are among the reasons Mike Perrone, now 24, is in the Marines.
"I was in the eighth grade when it happened," he said. "My extended family is all from New York and it touched everyone."
So it fits that Bill Perrone, a steamfitter, gave his son a "Flag of Honor" to take with him to Afghanistan as a keepsake. It's an American flag whose thick stripes are filled with the names of everyone who died in the 9/11 attacks.
Every member of Bill's union local signed the flag, along with friends, family and members of the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department -- Bill is a member.
The flag has never left Mike's side.
"It's been with me on every mission, everywhere we went," he said.
Proof of the flag's excursions to the wilds of the Afghan mountains came Saturday, when Mike shook out the flag out and a piece of fiber fell from its folds.
"Donkey hair," he said.
Perrone, 24, is an infantryman. After an eight-month tour of duty, he's on two-week leave now, and with his family here, after serving nearly eight months in Afghanistan.
"I'm just planning to chill out here," he said, smiling softly.
Perrone says he was ready for the Marines when he graduated from high school.
"It was something I always wanted to do," he said.
But his family encouraged him to get his college degree.
"He's the oldest member of his generation on both sides of the family," Bill Perrone said. "He's the first to go to college, the first to go into the military. We told him `Get your degree, Then you can make your decision.' "
Mike did that, majoring in criminal justice at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. That degree, combined with his military experience, should help him with his career goal, once he leaves the Marines in 2015 -- to work in federal law enforcement.
In Afghanistan, Mike's unit was first assigned to Helmand Province in Southern Afghanistan. But, he said, he and the others in his unit have moved throughout the country, wherever they're needed.
"We traveled by helicopter, by truck," he said. "But some of the places we went, you couldn't get in by truck. We hiked in, in full gear."
His mother, Mary, said communicating with family isn't always easy when you're in Afghanistan.
"We get calls every two weeks, and the occasional email," she said. "But he's been really good about letting us know when he's going on a mission, and to not expect to hear from him."
His time there has brought him face-to face with Third World poverty, in villages where what we take for granted in the United States -- things as basic as running water -- is nonexistent.
It's also a country where the enemy is anywhere.
"Someone can be really nice to you one day, then try to kill you the next," he said.
And it's a place of real, horrible danger.
"I lost three good friends there," Mike Perrone said.
While his son serves overseas, Bill is watching the 9/11 site come alive again. He's worked as a steamfitter on the Freedom Tower, on the 9/11 Memorial, and on the other office towers that are now filling the void that existed there once the rubble from the attacks was cleared away.
"Everyone feels pride down there," he said. "We're rebuilding something they tried to take away from us."
That's been especially true in the past two years.
"You could just see buildings coming up out of the ground," Bill Perrone said.
When his leave ends, Mike Perrone will go to Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base in North Carolina. There he'll get his orders for redeployment.
His family says quite openly that they want him to stay stateside. But with the war in Afghanistan in flux, and a presidential election coming up in November, it's hard to know what will happen.
"It all depends on what happens, politically," Mike Perrone said. "It's all up in the air."