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Local man gets a surprising welcome back

When Lance Cpl. Justin Longcor returned after seven months in Iraq he expected to see a few smiling faces.

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By Noel Stack | City editor | March 23, 2008 14:30

What he encountered at Sacramento International Airport Thursday was an airport full of smiles and cheers when he arrived. His mother Sandra Longcor, a Shingle Springs voice on marineparents.com, and his girlfriend Charlene Derheim of Vacaville stood waiting with a crowd complete with other marineparents.com members, the Patriot Guard, Move America Forward members and staff from the Mountain Democrat.

'I didn't expect all that,' said Justin, 23. 'The news crew was definitely new for me.'

The 2003 Ponderosa High School graduate volunteered to go to Iraq after years of canceled deployments. He joined the Marines four years ago, following in the footsteps of his grandfather.

'I just wanted to go somewhere,' Justin said.

When she found out her son volunteered to go to Iraq, Sandra said, 'I thought he was absolutely out of his mind.'

Serving with MWSS 372, Justin went to Al Asad Airfield, a base in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq west of Baghdad.

'I knew where I was going. Al Asad is known for being 'Camp Cupcake,'' Justin said. 'I wasn't worried about it.'

For the first half of his tour, Justin said he spent time as a gunner on a Humvee, patrolling 'the wire' (the fence around the base). The second half he spent in a tower on base watching the wire from above.

Because the base had Internet access, Justin was able to stay in touch with his family and he met his girlfriend online while serving his country half a world away.

'This is the first time they ever met, too,' Sandra said of the event at the airport. The whole thing took Justin by surprise, she added, saying, 'He was shocked. It's so cool when you can get people together like that.'

Justin, who was trained to work in aviation electronics and also expertly repairs night-vision goggles, is home with his parents, Sandra and Dave Longcor, in Shingle Springs on a 30-day leave, his mother said. One thing he'd like to do while here, Sandra added, is visit a 5-year-old boy named Hagen. The Blue Oak Elementary School student sent Justin a Christmas card and the Marine wants to say 'thank you,' she explained.

After this visit, Justin will return to his home base in Miramar with the MALS 16 company to serve the rest of his contract, about one year.

'He won't be going back to Iraq unless he re-enlists,' Sandra said, adding that he should be promoted to the rank of corporal soon.

Justin said he's decided not to re-enlist, wanting instead to pursue a college degree in computer science.