A soldier is recovering in a hospital after suffering from severe facial injuries during an attack by a gang in Philadelphia over an Army jacket that he was wearing.
Austin Freni, 19, was gifted a plane ticket to fly home to New Jersey from Fort Benning Army base in Georgia. A kind stranger donated money after noticing his mother’s GoFundMe page to help him get home.
While attending the annual Mummers Parade – a colorful folk festival – in Philadelphia on Sunday, a group of men made “derogatory comments” about his jacket, his mother told Fox 29. At the time, he, his mother and his girlfriend were walking through Philadelphia after the parade when he one of the men hit Austin. The other 10-15 men then jumped in and began attacking him.
“Me and his girlfriend tried pulling them off and they hit us,” she said. “We got hit in the face. She got thrown in the street.”
Austin is now in Jefferson University Hospital, where he faces a long recovery ahead.
“He’s got to get plates put in his jaw and his mouth will be wired shut for the next eight weeks,” his mother said.
“He’s such a good kid, he did not deserve this,” she added.
His father died two years earlier and his mother, Lori, had recently lost her job due to instability and health issues which left her with trouble paying for his trip home.
“They lost their Dad to brain cancer to years ago. It’s been kind of rough since daddy died and Austin just from day one stepped right in and he’s helped. I lost my job due to disability, my health issues a couple weeks ago and for the last two months he just been sending every single paycheck that he’s made straight to his siblings and he’s gotten us by,” she told Fox 29.
Lori was prepared to sell her things to raise the money but instead made a GoFundMe page.
Jennifer Richardson noticed the page and bought the ticket for them outright.
“My brother was in the Marines, and I watched my mother during the holidays not know if he was coming home so, this is personal to me,” Jennifer said.
Austin was due to fly out to the Middle East within the next two months.