The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

August 21, 2013

Troops receive warm homecoming

JOHNSTOWN — His T-shirt announcing, “I waited 9 months to hug mommy,” 3-year-old Gabriel Grunza was making the most of his first opportunity when Sgt. 1st Class Anna Grunza of Westmont stepped onto the tarmac Wednesday at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.

Missing her family was the hardest part of her year of active duty, Grunza said, still hugging her son outside the Army National Guard helicopter hangar.

Grunza was one of about 80 members of 1st Battalion, 104th Attack Reconnaissance Regiment, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, welcomed home Wednesday from duty in Afghanistan.

“This is a very exciting time for them,” Capt. Scott Dunlap said. “It was emotional for some and joyous for all.”

Dunlap was not among those deployed, but was on hand for the homecoming.

Surrounded by his family, Staff Sgt. Ben Smith of the West End described the Afghanistan duty as “long and hot, but a good deployment overall.”

Sgt. Chloe Clements of Ligonier said the temperature reached 117 degrees one day.

“It is a different kind of hot,” Spc. Andrea Gross of Derry said, hugging her sons, Alex, 3, and Dustin, 5.

As a helicopter maintenance worker, Gross said her job was relatively safe – and busy.

Clements also downplayed the risk of working in a war zone.

“I was just doing my job, but in a different country,” she said.

The AH-64 Apache helicopter unit’s prime mission is to support ground troop operations, Dunlap said.

“Reconnaissance is big,” he added.

Grunza said she will cherish her role in humanitarian missions at the Red Crescent Orphanage.

“We were handing out food and clothes to the kids,” she said. “It was a way of giving back.”

But she will never forget two who did not come home.

“I want to be able to talk about the two great aviators who lost their lives,” Grunza said.

Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Paul Ruffner of Punxsutawney and Warrant Officer Jarett Yoder, 26, of Mohnton, Berks County, were killed April 9 when their Apache helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan.

Both aviators were members of the 104th contingent based at Fort Indiantown Gap, but were working in Afghanistan with the Johnstown unit.

Randy Griffith covers military news for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • fire_23 Investigators seek cause of West End fire

    The cause of a five-alarm fire early Monday at a vacant structure in the 500 block of Dorothy Avenue in Johnstown’s West End has not been determined, according to city fire officials.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Richland seeks loan for roof, HVAC work

    Richland Township’s plans to replace the municipal building’s roof and heating and air conditioning system will cost nearly $600,000, Solicitor Gary Costlow said.

    July 22, 2014

  • Undocumented children already arriving in state

    An influx of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border is spilling over into Pennsylvania, as state officials received word Monday that more than 500 are being housed in the commonwealth.

    July 22, 2014

  • Auditor cites flaws in gas drilling regulation

    Strained by limited resources and the rapid expansion of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, environmental regulators have failed to adequately monitor well safety or to provide clear and timely information to citizens, the state auditor general said Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • Driver in fatal DUI crash will serve jail time

    A Vintondale man was sentenced Tuesday in Cambria County court to serve 16 to 32 months in the county jail for a 2011 alcohol-related crash that killed a woman.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tribune Treasure!

    July 22, 2014

  • Reade Twp. water projects receive funding

    Three water treatment systems in Cambria County will receive financial assistance from the state Department of Environmental Protection to remove acid mine drainage from nearby waterways.

    July 22, 2014

  • stoystown Tractor Fest Antique tractors chugging toward Stoystown fest

    A display of a whole lotta horsepower and pulling contests will highlight the 14th annual Antique Tractor Festival.
    Sponsored by Stoystown Lions Club and Laurel Highlands Antique Power Club, the event will be held July 31 through Aug. 3 at the Lions’ park, one-half mile east of Stoystown on Route 30.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Irish dance school wants to set toes tapping in Cambria County

    If you ever wanted to learn to dance an Irish jig, now is your chance.
    Kenny Cavanaugh School of Irish Dance, based out of Milford, Pike County, is expanding into Cambria County.

    July 22, 2014

  • Paterno son, other former assistant sue Penn State for $1M

    A son of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has sued the university over his dismissal from its coaching staff two years ago, saying he has been unfairly linked to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

    July 22, 2014


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
House Ads