Gov. Paterson has pardoned a solider whose earlier conviction on gun possession charges barred had barred him from fulfilling his lifelong goal of joining the New York Police Department, the Times reports. In only his second pardon since taking office, Paterson granted clemency to Osvaldo Hernandez — a former paratrooper with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division — who was arrested in 2002 when police found a semiautomatic pistol beneath his car seat.

The Corona native was sentenced to one-year at Rikers Island, but he was released in eight months for good conduct. An army veteran and corrections officer he met in prison suggested he enlist, and the army granted him a waiver allowing him to do so. After his 15-month tour in Afghanistan ended in 2007, the decorated veteran tried to join the NYPD — and ranked 25th on the list of applicants after scoring a near-perfect grade on the entrance exam, according to the Daily News. But the city's administrative code doesn't allow individuals with felony convictions to become cops.

So General Peter W Chiarelli sent a letter to Paterson describing the specialist as an "exemplary soldier," and yesterday the Governor pardoned Hernandez, noting that he "has demonstrated that individuals can turn their lives around and that we need not let our mistakes define us." That said, Hernandez won't be able to take advantage of the pardon immediately because he is scheduled to be redeployed to Afghanistan in January. He told the Post: "This is the beginning for me — not the end. I will try to live up to the faith placed in me in all that I do as an infantryman when my unit deploys to Afghanistan and when I return home."