By Alexander Dworkowitz
On 11th Avenue in College Point, American flags hanging outside homes is a common sight, a show of support for troops serving a world away in Iraq.
But what is not so common is a smaller red and yellow flag, displaying two blue stars at its center, a sign that sits at the entrance of the Tychnowitz home.
The stars symbolize the two sons of Alexandra and Andrew Tychnowitz, both of whom are serving with the U.S. Army in the Middle East.
“It's a tradition that goes back to the First World War,” Andrew Tychnowitz said of the flag.
While many parents across the country spend their days and nights worrying about a son or daughter, for the Tychnowitzes the concern is double. Their two sons are their only children.
Over the last few weeks, the parents have only had brief phone conversations with Stephen Tychnowitz, 25, in the 32nd Signal Battalion of the 22nd Brigade, and Paul Tychnowitz, 22, in the 17th Signal Battalion of 22nd Brigade. Both were in Kuwait weeks ago, but their parents do not know whether or not they have moved into Iraq and engaged in combat.
“If they did, they certainly wouldn't tell us,” their father said.
Stephen Tychnowitz has served with the U.S. Army since 1996. The graduate of Queens Vocational High School married a German woman in March, shortly before shipping off to the Middle East.
Paul Tychnowitz also has a history with the Army, which he joined more than two years ago after graduating from McClancey High School.
Growing up in College Point, the brothers had a strong interest in sports. Both played baseball, while Stephen took up fishing and Paul shot-put.
“Typical teenage boys,” their father said. “They fought like cats and dogs.”
The parents have listened for news of their sons with pride and anxiety.
Alexandra Tychnowitz rushes home from her job at a Genovese in Auburndale, becoming emotional when she hears from her children.
“When they call, forget it,” she said. “Paul laughs at me. It's hard sometimes. You can't sit by the phone 24-7, but when they do call, you like to be there.”
With much of Iraq under the control of the U.S. Army and its allies, Alexandra Tychnowitz said her greatest worry was terrorist attacks against her sons.
“You could have a crazed person come up to you with a bomb under a dress,” she said.
With the concern for their sons has come frustration with the politics of the Middle East.
“If we had done it right in 1991, my sons wouldn't have to be there,” Andrew Tychnowitz said, referring to the Gulf War in which the United States was unable to remove Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, from power.
“It's hard not to think about it when the television and radio are filled with news,” he said.
The brothers have followed in their father's footsteps. Andrew Tychnowitz served in a medical unit in both the Army and in the National Guard, and he volunteers as a paramedic.
Alexandra Tychnowitz said she, too, has felt the urge to serve.
“If I was 25 years younger, I'd be there myself,” she said.
As the war progresses and American troops are bringing more Iraqi cities under control, both parents are looking forward to the day their sons return home.
“We'll give them a giant party, a welcome home party,” Alexandra Tychnowitz said, smiling.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.