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Injured soldier welcomed home with a surprise

November 23, 2009 4:24:13 AM PST
A west suburban soldier injured in Afghanistan got a warm welcome home Sunday.Family and friends paid tribute to Army Private Josh Kerber during a procession and party in his honor.

Loved ones are working on helping Kerber to recover from his injuries.

It was a hero's welcome for a native son who now bears the mark of war. Sunday afternoon was Private Kerber's surprise homecoming.

"I love being back. It's a great feeling from where I was to come back here. With the support of everybody, I remember why I was doing it," said Kerber of the 82nd Airborne Division.

The 21-year-old actually returned to his West Chicago home Friday, but has been state-side at an Army hospital since mid-October. That's when he lost most of his left arm and some of his eyesight when insurgents attacked during his first tour of duty with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan.

I appreciate all the support from the community...everyone...it holds you up when in the times you think you can't stand," said Patrick and Kathy Kerber, the soldier's parents.

But Sunday's welcome home is also bitter-sweet. Kerber's aunt, Donna, who came up with the idea for the surprise, died of a brain aneurysm unexpectedly last week.

"Her and her son got it startedm, and we picked up where she left off," said Kerber's uncle Bruce Vanwankum.

A limo carrying the wounded soldier joined a procession led by Warriors Watch Riders through the town to the American Legion Hall for a welcome home party. There, Kerber was greeted by his great grandfather and others, before the mayor presented him with an award.

"I thank you on behalf of my brothers and sisters still on the front lines. I can tell them what welcome they'll be getting when they come back to their country," Kerber said.

In the next few weeks, Kerber will return to Walter Reed Medical Center for more rehab before pursuing his dream of being a part of law enforcement.


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