State Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) was welcomed home Friday by his alma mater, DuBois Central Catholic School, and the community after spending nearly all of 2018 in the Middle East with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

“Let’s celebrate the accomplishments of somebody who I look up to ... for his accomplishments and what he’s done for his community and how hard he works for his constituents,” said state Rep. Tom Sankey, who served as master of ceremonies.

Gabler, who was valedictorian of DCC’s 2002 graduating class, was promoted to the rank of major during his deployment and sworn into office last Tuesday to begin his sixth term in the state House, representing the residents of the 75th Legislative District.

Sankey told a story about an incident involving Gabler that happened a few years ago. He said Gov. Tom Corbett needed Gabler, who was on Guard duty for two weeks, to return to Harrisburg.

“He was probably the coolest guy in the building, because when all of us are in suits and ties, Matt Gabler is walking through the hallways dressed head-to-toe in camo,” said Sankey. “He did get his jacket and tie on in time to go on the floor and vote, but it felt like you were a pretty important guy when the Governor’s calling for you.”

“When I originally wanted to run for office, I worked so hard, because I just wanted to sit down and meet with Matt Gabler and learn as much as I can learn from this young man who was elected at half the age of probably the average legislator,” Sankey said.

Sankey said Gabler is not only smart but he is a good citizen and “that’s what we want him to be. He is a real world hero. You have one of the greatest graduates in the entire legislature living in DuBois and being an alumni here, and I can’t say enough things about him.”

Deborah Pontzer from Congressman Glenn Thompson’s office said it is difficult to miss someone unless they go away.

“And that brings to mind the fact of how can we really miss Rep. Gabler until he went away. And in some respects, I think it really shows us just how important it is to have our representative here,” Pontzer said.

Pontzer told the students that there is a lot of opportunity for each of them in north central Pennsylvania.

“One of the things I think we know about our representative and the men and the women who are like our representative, is we’ve grown good, we’ve grown strong and we’re proud of the ones that come from north central Pennsylvania,” Pontzer said.

Julie Slomski, director Gov. Tom Wolf’s Northwest Region, said that one of the roles Wolf is most proud of being is the Commander-in-Chief for the PA National Guard, which is approximately, 20,000 members strong.

“Rep. Gabler is part of the third largest National Guard in the nation. And you, Rep. Gabler, you truly embody the notion of a citizen soldier in serving the constituents of the 75th District as state representative, and protect the citizens of the Commonwealth as a member of National Guard,” said Slomski. “Your military service is admirable, serving in the U.S. Army Reserve from 2006 to 2012 and the PA Army National Guard since 2012 with the recent promotion to Major.”

Keynote speaker state Rep. Mike Turzai, said Gabler’s great values came from DCC.

“So, young men and women, I just want to tell you, you’ve got a great role model here and he’s a role model for each and every student here at the school,” said Turzai.

As a state representative, Turzai said he was blessed to meet Gabler before he became a representative.

“We hired him immediately, because we knew what an All-American, smart, hardworking, great values, good person he is,” said Turzai. “And then a group of us felt very strongly that Matt, with his ties to this community, Elk County and Clearfield counties, we just thought he’d be an outstanding representative.”

Being humble, Gabler didn’t think he was ready, said Turzai.

“But we knew that he was more than ready. He’s willing to go into a battle for his country in terms of military service, but also in terms of the political arena,” said Turzai. “He’s in the arena, but he always does it, young folks, with dignity and preparedness.”

“We’re so proud of him. I know Mom and Dad, his lovely wife, his daughter, they’re so proud of him, but he’s one of you,” said Turzai. “And you should just give him a big hug. I mean that. As many of you should give him high fives and hugs as you can. Welcome home Matt Gabler.”

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