New police officer to inherit badge of cousin killed in Iraq

Posted: January 17, 2014

WHEN OFFICER Gennaro "Gerry" Pellegrini Jr. became the first Philadelphia cop to lose his life while serving in the Iraq War in 2005, the badge he wore, which belonged to his father before him, was retired.

Today, that badge - No. 3722 - will be called out of retirement and placed on the chest of Pellegrini's first cousin, Gregory Kravitz, who will graduate as an officer from the Philadelphia Police Academy this morning.

Kravitz's mother, Denise, was proud of her son's decision to become a cop. Her brother, Gennaro Pellegrini Sr., served more than 25 years on the force and her husband, Officer Howard Kravitz, has almost 24 years with Philadelphia police.

When her son told her he was going to pursue his fallen cousin's badge, Denise Kravitz was overwhelmed.

"I thought that was the highest honor he could possibly pay to his cousin and uncle," she said. "What a nice family tradition for him to bring this out of retirement. I think it would make Gerry very proud."

Pellegrini Jr. had just two weeks left of his six-year commitment to the National Guard when he was called up for service in 2004 and told he'd be shipped out to Iraq in a year.

At the time, he had three years in the Police Department as an officer in the 26th District, which covers Fishtown.

He had already earned himself a nickname among those on the force: "One-punch Pellegrini."

His uncle was there for the incident that got him the name. Pellegrini had been in pursuit of a motorist who bailed out of his car and tried to run.

"The guy had a gun, he turned around and punched Gerry and Gerry punched him back and knocked him out," Howard Kravitz said. "Gerry goes, 'Can you believe he hit me?' I said, 'Get used to it.' "

Pellegrini was used to taking hits. He was a welterweight boxer with at least 17 amateur fights under his belt. In May 2004, before he left for service, he had his one and only professional fight at the Blue Horizon, which he won with a fourth-round knockout.

At the beginning of 2005, he left for Iraq. While there, Pellegrini realized many Iraqi children had no shoes, so he wrote a letter to the teachers at Hackett School in Philadelphia, which collected hundreds of pairs of flip-flops to send overseas, Denise Kravitz said.

"That's just the kind of heart he had," she said.

Pellegrini's kind heart stopped beating on Aug. 9, 2005. He was just 31 when he and four other National Guard soldiers from Pennsylvania were killed when their armored vehicle drove over a bomb.

Perhaps, Gregory Kravitz will look at his service in law enforcement the same way his cousin looked at his military service when he spoke to a Daily News reporter in 2004 before going to Iraq.

"I think we'll go over there and do a good job," Pellegrini Jr. said. "We'll do what we have to do."


On Twitter: @FarFarrAway

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