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Military Appreciation Night special for Kyle Palmieri

Devils forward has sister in National Guard, brother-in-law is Army Ranger

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Kyle Palmieri feels forever indebted to his older sister and brother-in-law for providing him the freedom to do what he does best as a forward for the New Jersey Devils.

Taylor Palmieri has been a member of the New York National Guard for the past three years. The eldest of the four Palmieri siblings, Tahrin, is married to United States Army Ranger Stephen Ficchi.

"Military has been a part of my family for a long time now; it's pretty cool to see my sister go out and become someone who protects this country," Kyle Palmieri said. "I've always held people who do that in a very high regard. To have someone that close to my immediate family be involved in the military is a big honor for me. She's out there in training now [on the East Coast]."

Ficchi is expected to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan later this month. He has served as an Army Ranger for the past 10 years and recently was promoted to the Special Forces division.

"That's the tough part for my sister," Palmieri said. "This will be the first time where she won't know where he's going or what he's doing, but it's something he's excited to be a part of. I think he'll know the country he'll be in, but won't be stationed in one spot. He'll be deployed to different parts of the country, wherever he is.

"They just introduced a baby girl [Gianna] into the world in April, and now my brother-in-law will have to deploy and serve his country. It takes a pretty special person to be able to do that."

Palmieri is looking forward to Military Appreciation Night when the Devils host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, MSG-B, NHL.TV). In addition to honoring 300 service members attending the game, Palmieri and the Devils will launch "Squad 21." For 21 games, starting Saturday, the Devils will host 21 active-duty or retired member of the military in Section 21 at Prudential Center. Each member and their guest will meet Palmieri after the game.

Video: Kyle Palmieri on the meaning of Veteran's Day

"I'm sure they're going to be excited to come watch a game," Palmieri said. "Some of them come from places that don't necessarily have hockey. But I'm looking forward to what it brings, and hopefully they have a couple of enjoyable nights."

Palmieri said he still can recall the moment Taylor decided to dedicate her life to serving her country.

"She was always the feistiest of all of us, for sure," he said. "She had a spark about her and that little bit of attitude and swagger. When she graduated Rutgers University she still wasn't 100-percent sure what she wanted to do. She knew she wanted to get into the medical field. Right around this same time was when [Tahrin] and now brother-in-law were married. He kind of used his experience, and it made an impression upon Taylor to join the National Guard.

"I'm sure there are some tough moments for her, but I know she really enjoys being able to give back to our country."

Palmieri said he also considered joining the military but that the success he experienced in hockey outweighed everything else. Palmieri played two seasons of high school hockey at St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey, before joining USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. He was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round (No. 26) of the 2009 NHL Draft. Born in Smithtown, New York, but raised in Montvale, New Jersey, Palmieri was acquired by the Devils in a trade with the Ducks on June 27, 2015.

"I didn't have much of a military background growing up, but as I got older hockey was something I loved more than anything," Palmieri said. "In reality it's tough to look back and say, 'Oh, when I was 18 I would have entered.' But I think it's something that would have been an option for me."

Palmieri said talking about hockey is a break from reality for his sister and brother-in-law whenever his family gets together.

"Stephen is a quiet guy and pretty reserved, but you can tell he brings a rigidness of the Army to the way he lives his life," Palmieri said. "I remember one story he told. He was on an all-night flight from Germany to Washington, D.C., and then flew to Georgia, where he and my sister were living at the time. My sister told me the first thing he did when he got home was mow the lawn and clean the garage. It takes a special kind of person to sacrifice that much and go through what he has. He's in charge of a lot of guys but he's proud to be responsible and protect our country."

Veterans Day always has been a huge deal in the Palmieri home. It meant a lot to Palmieri to play in a preseason game against the Florida Panthers at Tate Rink at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York in October.

"To have people who are still putting their lives on the line for something they might not even believe in totally but remain patriots, and have the heart to go over there and protect our freedom, is something that is one of the most selfless acts you could ever imagine," Palmieri said. "I hold them in the highest regard and it's something very special to me to have a sister and brother-in-law serving our country."

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