Blairsville-Based Company Ends One Year Away from Loved Ones

Article excerpt

Under cloudless blue skies, the 68 men and two women of the 565th Signal Company, Pennsylvania National Guard, arrived home in Blairsville on Saturday after a yearlong deployment, including eight months in Iraq.

As they clambered off the bus that brought them from Fort Dix, N.J., scores of family and friends were on hand to welcome them with hugs and kisses. One little girl, the 12-year-old daughter of Greg Pastor of Greensburg, brought her basketball and a softball glove and ball. Alexa Pastor hoped there might be time to play a game with her dad.

Earlier, Melanie Pastor, who heads the unit's Family Support Group, recollected the ups and downs of the past year. This was her husband's second deployment to Iraq, and it was a better experience than the first time for the family.

"I knew what to expect," Melanie Pastor said. "As a group, we tried to pull together."

"You are always concerned," Pastor continued. At the same time, the time of maximum danger seemed to have passed in Iraq, and the Pastors were thankful.

The signal or communications company split its time in Iraq between Camp Taji, which lies on the outskirts of Baghdad, and Camp Liberty, which is closer to the city. It was dry and dusty and hot. Reports reached home of temperatures close to 130 degrees.

"It's like, surreal," said Christopher Gongloff of Blairsville, who stood next to his wife, Amanda, while he held the couple's 2- year-old son, Jarrett, in his arms moments after stepping off the bus from Fort Dix. …