Justice takes a tour of duty
For five weeks in November and December, Rob Wyda wore a gun and a bulletproof vest instead of his usual black judicial robe.
The Bethel Park district justice returned last week from Afghanistan, where he was stationed as a member of the Department of Defense Criminal Investigation Task Force. He was part of a team that investigated and questioned people in Afghanistan suspected of being members of terrorist organizations.
That's about all he is able to reveal.
"I wish I could say more, but that's about all I can," said Wyda, who returned to his courtroom a week ago. "There's a lot of security reasons."
Wyda, 44, has been the elected district justice in Bethel Park for four years, and his office is festooned with "welcome home" banners, American flags and a few new rugs purchased from the bazaars in Kabul. District justices from other communities filled in for him while he was gone.
Wyda was called to active duty Sept. 2, and stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va., outside of Washington, D.C. By Nov. 1, he was shipped out to Afghanistan.
Flipping through pictures of an arid, bombed-out land dotted with land mines planted by Russian invaders in the 1980s, Wyda said Wednesday he wondered how long it will take for Afghanistan to rebuild itself.
"It'll take another generation before it ever gets to normal," he said. "The Taliban destroyed so much. There's no music or movie theaters. When it gets dark, you never see lights in the homes, you never see women and only rarely do you see children playing. It's a very hard land."
Wyda has been a member of the Naval Reserves for about 17 years and was deployed in the mid-1980s to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba. He said he volunteered to go back there for the task force, which was formed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"I joked that where I wanted to go was this warm sunny land, but instead I ended up halfway across the world in this cold, desolate place," Wyda said. "Some days while I was there, I kept wondering how this Bethel Park father ended up where I was."
Wyda received word that he was coming home by early December, and was back by Dec. 8 in Washington, D.C., -- where he stayed during his debriefing.
"I remember coming back and taking a walk around the Reflecting Pool and there was garbage in the water, but I looked in there and thought to myself, 'Gosh, it's so good to be back -- even the trash looks good,'" he said.
He returned home on Dec. 14, in time for son Jared's 12th birthday.
"It was amazing to walk through the door and see the tree up, and my family," he said. "Through it all, they were the ones I missed the most. I would get 10-minute phone calls a week to them, and hearing my wife (Shannon) tell me everything was all right meant more to me than anything."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ford City budget may not be final
- Angel trees feature pets from shelter
- 2,200 union employees of ATI lose coverage
- Babies welcomed to the world in holiday style
- November spared Valley effects of wintry weather
- Mentor takes young Brackenridge hunter under his wing
- Eastern Pa. man jailed in Armstrong County
- Shoppers can buy gifts for seniors through Home Instead program
- Starkey: Tomlin lived in his fears
- Penguins’ reshuffled top line of Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz looks familiar
- Demand for surveillance systems boosts sales for Vector Security