Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 7:19 pm | Overcast 57º


Local News

Santa Barbara Marine Reservist Matt Tonello Welcomed Home with Open Arms

Police officer reunites with his young son and other family and friends upon his return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan

Pure joy.

It was the first emotion that came to mind for many of the people who watched Marine Staff Sgt. Matt Tonello of Santa Barbara reunite with his 8-year-old son Friday as he returned to the South Coast after a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

As Tonello descended the stairs into the Santa Barbara Airport lobby, grateful family rushed to embrace him and welcome him home.

“It’s a huge stress relief, having him home,” said Tonello’s father, David, who was among the crowd. David Tonello and his wife, Lisa, have taken care of Tonello’s son, Lucca, since the deployment.

About 150 people had gathered to welcome home the Santa Barbara native, who was returning from his fourth tour of duty as a U.S. Marine Reservist.

Tonello has been a Marine for 14 years, with four years of active duty and 10 as a reservist, and has been deployed three times to Iraq and most recently to Afghanistan. He has also been an officer with the Santa Barbara Police Department for six years.

During his absence, the rare times he was able to talk to his family meant the world.

Rachel Chester, Tonello’s girlfriend of 2½ years, said they were able to talk via satellite phone a bit during his tour, and with him 17,000 miles away from her home in Los Alamos, “that was everything,” she said.

As she waited for him to descend the stairs, the pride was unmistakable.

“I’m so proud of him,” Chester said. “He’s committed so much of his adult life to these tours.”

She said she was surprised and happy to see the large turnout at the airport.

“It’s so great,” she said. “They deserve it.”

“My support group was really strong,” within his troop and from his family back home, Tonello told reporters.

He said he’ll have to go through a debriefing, and will take a few months off, but he hopes to be on the streets in Santa Barbara serving with the police force by June.

“The city of Santa Barbara so appreciates their service,” Police Chief Cam Sanchez said. “We’re so glad we’ve had them all come home. Matt has made us all proud.”

Click here for a Matt Tonello homecoming tribute created by fellow police Officer Rashun Drayton.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >