Earlier today as the thunderstorms were approaching and the locals were heading home from a busy week in the busy city of Jacksonville, Florida, there was something else that stirred the attention of so many. It was something that doesn’t usually happen in a city that boasts an NFL team along with just over 1.3 million residents. It was a traditional hero’s welcome for an injured Marine. This isn’t Mayberry and we aren’t living in the latter part of WWII. What just occurred in the Mandarin area only a few hours ago should make your heart swell with pride.
Marine Cpl. Tyler Southern, who will turn 21 on Sunday, was injured in Afghanistan back in May and has been in treatment for losing both legs and one arm from an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blast while on an unmounted patrol.
His father drove him home from Bethesda Medical Center in Maryland and they arrived to literally thousands of friends, family, and yes, strangers. You read correctly, thousands lined the streets all the way up to his home to welcome this hero.
“Thank you for being here!” Tyler Southern said to a crowd as they sang “Happy Birthday” and “God Bless America.”
Why would anyone see the need in taking time out of their busy Friday afternoon schedule to stand in the ninety-plus degree temperatures to welcome home a kid whom they don’t even know? I know why—PEOPLE STILL CARE!
There are many who still get it. I’m proud to say that Jacksonville has so many residents who still think they live in the kind of town that The Boss (Bruce Springsteen) wrote about in “My Hometown.”
It makes me proud to know, as a veteran, that there are people who aren’t desensitized to the fact that there’s still a war going on and our men and women are placed in harm’s way on a day-to-day…no, moment-by-moment basis.
Tyler Southern is a hero. Not because he survived and his life has been forever changed, but because he, like so many others, have willingly put his “Love for Country” first.
Please don’t ever forget, no matter how big your city gets, that we are a nation that’s protected by the brave, watched over by heroes, and kept safe by those who choose to serve a country full of “small towns.”