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North Huntingdon preschool surprises dad a day before Iraq deployment

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, July 26, 2017, 4:48 p.m.

Staff Sgt. Tom Porter of North Irwin got a surprise send-off at his son's North Huntingdon preschool Wednesday, the day before he reports to Fort Hood, Texas, to train for a deployment to Iraq.

“I'm totally surprised by this. It's a very welcome surprise,” Porter said when he took his 2-year-old son, Jamie, to the KinderCare Learning Center. The boy's classmates signed a card and his teacher, Bella Baverso, helped put together a scrapbook of Jamie's artwork and the toddler's journey at KinderCare.

Porter, 35, a Latrobe native, expects to be deployed overseas for about nine months with the Army Reserves 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion. He will leave behind his civilian job as an information technologist at Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp. in West Mifflin.

“I'm going to miss my wife and son dearly,” Porter said as he held Jamie and stood next to his wife, Bethany, who attended the special luncheon.

While she's concerned about his safety, Bethany, a Homer City native, said, “I'm very proud of him and the duty he is doing, serving his country.”

Porter is one of a hand-picked group of 24 military intelligence officers who will be sent to Iraq. He will undergo language training at Fort Hood. The group will be divided into smaller units and assigned to three or four locations in Iraq on a mission he declined to discuss.

At 35, Porter said he will not be the “old man” of the unit. While some are younger, one member is in his late 50s.

This is Porter's first deployment overseas, though he's been in the Army and Army Reserve for 13 years. He had been scheduled to be deployed in 2004, 2011, 2012 and then in 2013, but plans were canceled for various reasons.

Porter enlisted in the Army before his senior year at Greater Latrobe High School and joined in 2000. He recalled being in basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., when the terrorists attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001.

While on active duty service, he was in military intelligence and was assigned to Alaska for three years, where he experienced temperatures as low as minus-65 degrees in the bitter winter just below the Arctic Circle.

He took a break from military service in 2006 to enroll at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in criminology and computer science.

But he missed the service so much that he enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2010. Porter said he intends to re-enlist in December, while overseas, and serve for at least 20 years.

Porter said he has always had a strong desire to serve.

“I was playing with GI Joes when I was a kid,” he said. “I've always wanted to be in.”

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

Jamie Porter, 2, of North Irwin plays with balloons during a surprise going away party for his father Army Staff Sgt. Tom Porter on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, the day before being deployed to Iraq for nine months, at KinderCare child center in North Huntingdon.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jamie Porter, 2, of North Irwin plays with balloons during a surprise going away party for his father Army Staff Sgt. Tom Porter on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, the day before being deployed to Iraq for nine months, at KinderCare child center in North Huntingdon.
Jamie Porter, 2, of North Irwin plays with his father, Army Staff Sgt. Tom Porter, during a surprise going away party the day before being deployed to Iraq at KinderCare child center in North Huntingdon on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jamie Porter, 2, of North Irwin plays with his father, Army Staff Sgt. Tom Porter, during a surprise going away party the day before being deployed to Iraq at KinderCare child center in North Huntingdon on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
Army Staff Sgt. Tom Porter of North Irwin looks at a scrap book with is wife Bethany, that his son Jamie, 2, and the boy's day care class made for him at KinderCare child center in North Huntingdon on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Army Staff Sgt. Tom Porter of North Irwin looks at a scrap book with is wife Bethany, that his son Jamie, 2, and the boy's day care class made for him at KinderCare child center in North Huntingdon on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.
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