Neighbor Rick Anderson lifts Army National Guard Spec. Matthew Castrovillo into the air to welcome him home during a celebration in front of his home in the Mallard Point subdivision in Sugar Grove on Thursday, September 27, 2010. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 29, 2012 6:51AM
SUGAR GROVE — After a one-year deployment in Afghanistan, Army National Guard Spc. Matthew Castrovillo returned home Thursday to a hero’s welcome.
“It is the best feeling in the world to be home,” Castrovillo said.
Castrovillo, 24, received a motorcycle escort from the Illinois Patriot Guard Riders that began in Newark. Sugar Grove police squads and fire trucks joined the detail at Route 47 and Jericho Road, with horns blaring all the way to his family’s home. The soldier, a member of the 661st Engineer Company based in Sparta, Ill., graduated from Kaneland High School in 2007 and studied at Bradley University before enlisting in the service.
“Our unit built Afghanistan up,” he said. “It was tough.”
The soldier said he had no immediate plans, other than to be “home a long, long time” with his arm wrapped around his girlfriend, Michelle Wright.
Debra Castrovillo said she is relieved to finally have her son home.
“We hung on to every phone call with him and each day hoped he would call again,” a tearful mom said.
While the Castrovillo family couldn’t be happier for their son to be home, they said goodbye to their daughter, Melissa Castrovillo. She was deployed to Afghanistan just one day after her brother’s tour of duty was completed.
“We are starting the prayers all over again,” Debra Castrovillo said. Melissa Castrovillo, 23, enlisted in the service after graduating from Aurora University. The mother said her daughter wants work as a psychologist helping the men and women who return from service overseas.
“The only way she felt she could do that was to go and experience it. Her brother was so proud that he decided to enlist — it’s something the kids decided,” Debra Castrovillo said.
Neighbors and friends waved American flags from the parkway in front of his parents’ house and then greeted him with hugs and handshakes seconds after Castrovillo stepped his boots out of the SUV.
Rick Anderson, who lived two doors away and has known the soldier since they were eight-years old, said he has a custom of giving his friend a hug when he sees him. On Thursday, he gave him that hug and lifted him up off his heels.
“It is really nice getting him back home,” Anderson said. “Every time we heard something on the news we would worry — not knowing is the worst part.”
Ride Captain Joe Stoller of the Patriot Guard Riders, an all volunteer organization, said it is important to them to show their respect and honor to the returning soldiers.
“It is hard for them to return to a calm and peaceful environment. We let them know there are people proud of them, stand behind them and are there for them,” Stoller said.
The soldier’s grandmother and step grandfather came in from El Paso, Ill. to see their grandson, but couldn’t see him through the crowds.
“He’s OK,” said Mimerba Turton, the grandmother. “Once I get him in my arms, I won’t let him go,” she said.