BOHEMIA, N.Y. (PIX11) — Glenn Osterman was discharged from the U.S. Marines last month, after serving his country for five years, and quickly made a trip to Indiana.
That’s where he formally paid respects to the mother of his slain friend, Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, one of 13 U.S. service members killed on Aug. 26, 2021 — when a suicide bomber detonated his vest at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan, also killing 170 civilians.
“We were just getting ready to lay down, and we heard the explosion,” Osterman, 23, recalled at his family’s home in Bohemia on Long Island, telling PIX11 News his tent was about 200 yards away from the bombing.
Osterman immediately sprang into action with the Quick Reaction Force and later learned his best friend, Humberto Sanchez, had been killed in the terror attack with 12 other military personnel.
“My world got turned upside down,” Osterman said. “I have so many memories with him and stuff.”
Osterman eventually turned his grief into a moving, video tribute to Sanchez — using clips showing all the camaraderie and happy times in their unit. He presented the tribute to Sanchez’s mother, Coral Doolittle.
“When he enlisted, he said, ‘I just want to make you proud, I just want to make you proud,'” Sanchez’s mother, a Mexican immigrant, recalled of her son.
“My son had a huge homecoming, but he couldn’t see it,” she added.
Former Vice President Mike Pence was among the dignitaries who spoke at Sanchez’s funeral last year. Glenn Osterman’s mother, sister and girlfriend flew to Indiana to attend the service.
“Every day, I think about those families,” Kristine Osterman told PIX11 News through tears. “And I feel that’s kind of like a survivor’s guilt for a mom. Why was it her son and not mine?”
From Indiana, Sanchez’s mom noted to PIX11 News this week, “I always tell Kristine you have to hug your son and love him and spend time with him.”
Glenn Osterman’s father, also Glenn, was an NYPD Emergency Services Officer who survived the 9/11 attacks and dealt with the emotional wounds of the disaster for years.
The younger Osterman remembered going to school on Long Island in the years after 9/11.
“Every year, on the anniversary, there are kids in your class whose parents aren’t here,” Osterman said.
He was moved to join the U.S. Marines after the war death of Robert Pope in 2007, a family friend.
Kristine Osterman said she went into shock when her son notified her that he was being flown into Afghanistan for the closing days of the 20-year war on terror.
“From that night, I was afraid the plane was going to get shot down,” the mom said, her voice filled with emotion.
The mother said she asked her doctor for a prescription of Xanax to calm her anxiety and didn’t watch television news during the 15 days her son was in Kabul.
Then, she heard about the explosion on Aug. 26, 2021.
“That day is a total blur,” Kristine Osterman said.
Fortunately, a family friend was at a military command in Bahrain and received word about the casualties.
“And he saw the list,” Kristine Osterman recalled, “He was just screaming, Osterman’s alive! Osterman’s alive!”
Yet the trauma of what happened in Kabul weighs heavy on the minds of many soldiers.
“There are guys right now I was with who are struggling,” Glenn Osterman said. “They were diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Some people, it will take 20 years until it affects you.”
Glenn Osterman feels blessed by the long-distance friendship he developed during the war with his sister’s friend, Brianna Ventura.
“In the iPhone, you can do notes, so I would write to him every day,” Ventura recalled to PIX11 News. “I was always making sure he was staying positive during the rough times.”
The friendship between Osterman and Ventura blossomed into romance.
“I feel it was good for us, because we got to know each other at deeper levels,” Ventura said.
Glenn Osterman told us he hopes to start a law enforcement career in Virginia, a state where he likes to spend time.
He took many photos during his time in the U.S. Marines and treasures one of a girl in a red dress who was leaving Afghanistan with her family, refugees heading to Italy.
“She would always come over to us and hug us and ‘high five’ us,” Osterman recalled. “Whenever we had snacks, we would give them to her and her siblings.”
Osterman said the girl brought a light “in our dark times.”
“I gave the one daughter with the red dress my patch from my vest,” Osterman said, “so she would always remember us. It would be cool to one day be reunited with them.”