After three years of service as a Navy medic serving Marine Corps troops in combat, Darryl St. George, 30, returned to his loved ones and his teaching position at Northport High School this past November. His 21-year-old brother, Corey St. George, died suddenly from a drug overdose last July after a long battle with addiction, and Darryl received an early discharge in mid-October to both mourn and transition back into civilian life.
“I didn’t think it was possible to lose my brother here, back at home,” said St. George, who had lost friends on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
Last Wednesday, in the Northport High School library, he received a citation from state Assemb. Andrew P. Raia (R-East Northport) for his gallantry while St. George delivered a presentation for the school’s International Baccalaureate Lecture Series. St. George used the occasion to talk to students and community members about his reasons for enlisting, war stories, photos of life in Afghanistan and knowledge he gained from his experiences.
The American history teacher began with a lesson about the 9/11 attacks and the events leading. He focused on how terrorist actions inspired love from first responders and volunteers to save others inside the towers.
Social studies teacher James DeRosa, 40, knew that St. George was different from other students when he met him 13 years ago.
“He has compassion for humanity and the ability to find the good in everybody,” said DeRosa. “That’s why he chose to save lives as opposed to taking lives.”
During his time as a student at the high school, St. George coordinated a club that offered peer counseling to individuals who needed to talk about family problems, bullying issues and more.
“He was showing more maturity than most adults,” said DeRosa, who was asked to supervise the group during his first years as a teacher.
St. George attended Marymount Manhattan College before becoming a teacher at his high school alma mater. During his time as a faculty member, he continued to give back by helping with organizations like Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. Still, the effects of 9/11 lingered in his mind and he chose to do more. He enlisted and became a corpsman in October 2009.
In Afghanistan, as he treated the wounded, his mind battled with larger forces than enemy troops.
“Outside the wires, I was directly confronted with evil — face-to-face with evil,” said St. George, who went on to describe the shame he felt after getting excited to film the slaughter of a goat and the anger he felt toward the adults who built bombs, or worse, strapped the bombs onto Afghan children.
As St. George candidly recounted the unappealing food he ate, the struggle to grow a mustache, the friends he made that stayed sane with humor and his feelings of returning home, he also clarified perceptions of the war. He describes how the poor quality of life in Afghanistan and the low literacy rates can help spread radical beliefs.
He also addressed the needs and concerns of troops today.
“Discussing suicides are a taboo,” said St. George, who rose to the rank of petty officer third class while in the Navy. “In terms of coming home and creating programs to help troops transition, we’re failing.”
He emphasized the great support and comfort that care packages were to the troops and that anybody can serve their nation in any position, as long as they choose to give back. For now, St. George plans to continue teaching, but is considering politics in his future.
“I have great expectations,” said his 85-year-old grandfather, Edward Henry Gates, a WWII veteran. “He might be the president of the United States one day.”