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A hero's welcome home for Jupiter's Army Spec. Kevin Hardin
Palm Beach Post ^ | August 03, 2008 | SUSAN SPENCER-WENDEL

Posted on 08/03/2008 4:02:16 PM PDT by mdittmar

The idea began so simply, hatched in the heart of an injured soldier's mother.

A homecoming.

Terry Hardin's son, 22-year-old Army Spec. Kevin Hardin, would be back Saturday night — his first time home since a missile blew by him September 30 and lodged him at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, still, 10 months later.

Terry Hardin called and e-mailed some people, who called and e-mailed more people, tapping into Forgotten Solidiers Outreach and the Patriot Guard, a biker group who more often escort hearses, plus the American Legion and their 11th District commander, David Knapp, who snapped right to attention and zapped the word around himself.

Which is precisely how about 10 p.m. Saturday night, the Concourse C entrance at Palm Beach International Airport brimmed with more than 200 people lining the passageways, American flags in hand, children, adults, politicians, neighbors, the mechanic who worked on Kevin's antique car, some veterans in pressed uniforms, bikers in black leather.

And upstairs at the curbside dropoff, where deputies usually shook vehicles away, dozens of Harley Davidsons were parked, ready to escort the black stretch limo that would carry Kevin Hardin home.

To the small, sunny yellow house in Jupiter where he grew up, the second of Terry and Charles Hardin's four sons, the one who enlisted on the 60th anniversary of D-Day in 2004.

The one driving a Humvee on September 30 in Samarra, Iraq, when something similar to a rocket-propelled grenade — meant for a tank — hit the Humvee instead, blasting through it and past Hardin, shattering the bones in his arms and hands, leaving him without a thumb and forefinger and shrapnel embedded in his brain.

His brother, 17-year-old Kyle, estimates Kevin's had at least 25 or 26 surgeries thus far, so many skin grafts his buddies call him "Patches" at the hospital. And a number still to go.

Yet today he's a soldier still willing to serve.

Early Saturday evening, the Hardins were still making the sunny yellow house all spic-and-span, everything right down to the tile grout cleaned, Terry Hardin racing around, a cell phone in one hand, home phone in the other, three dogs barking at all the excitement. The phones must have rung 50 or 60 times that day, Kyle said, shaking his head.

They piled into the cars and got to the airport about 9 p.m. The crowd convened and Terry Hardin tried her darnedest to speak to and thank everyone and introduce everyone to each other, so grateful for their collective support.

"It's amazing," Kyle said, gazing around at the people.

Kevin's other brother, 15-year-old Keith, said he was a little worried. For one, he said, Kevin's a humble guy and doesn't like to be the center of attention, and two, he doesn't like crowds.

Airport officials escorted the Hardins down to the gate to meet Kevin, sans crowd of course, but accompanied by U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton. When the e-mails went out about Kevin's homecoming, people were asked not to shake his hands as he's still in extreme pain. Commander Knapp instructed people just to stay in place and let him pass by, not to reach out and grab him and keep passenger traffic moving.

As Kevin turned a corner and saw the crowd, his mother held his hand.

"Oh my gosh!" he said.

Then slightly turned around as if there were another way out.

Not a chance.

Commander Knapp called the uniforms to salute and some others, in Bermuda shorts and flip-flops, followed suit. Then broke into "God Bless America."

As Kevin walked through, he hugged people and the grand plan just to let him sail by dissolved.

People grateful for his service, his sacrifice, surrounded him, told him so. They handed him gift bags and cards and balloons, even hot dogs. Women cried, a few men too, perhaps including one very misty-eyed looking mechanic.

Kevin, his caregiver, Lillian May, his brothers and friends climbed into the stretch black car donated by Park Limousine.

Terry Hardin climbed into her mini-van to ride home with her husband.

The Harley engines echoed throughout the airport.

The sheriff's motorcycle deputies turned on their blue lights and led the motorcade out, headed for the sunny yellow spot in Jupiter.

And Kevin Hardin had a homecoming he deserved.

TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Florida; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: gatheringofeagles; goe; iraq; maf; welcomehome; wia; wot
1 posted on 08/03/2008 4:02:16 PM PDT by mdittmar
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To: StarCMC

PGR Ping

2 posted on 08/03/2008 4:05:20 PM PDT by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: mdittmar
What a fantastic post. This is the reception every one of our heroes deserve!!!!!!!!
Don't let the cowards get you down. They will gladly use and abuse each and every freedom for which our military forces have secured. The price has been high. Job well done, I salute you!!!!
3 posted on 08/03/2008 4:24:14 PM PDT by oldenuff2no (Retired AB ranger and damn proud of it!!! I served to support our constitution and our way of life.)
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To: mdittmar

That mechanic wasn’t the only one misty-eyed. Thank you for the upper this Sabbath Day.

4 posted on 08/03/2008 4:25:00 PM PDT by caseinpoint (Don't get thickly involved in thin things)
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To: mdittmar

Welcome home Soldier!

May God Bless and Keep you!

I tell you that stories like this restore a little of my faith in the people of the USA.

5 posted on 08/03/2008 4:27:06 PM PDT by clee1 (We use 43 muscles to frown, 17 to smile, and 2 to pull a trigger. I'm lazy and I'm tired of smiling.)
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To: mdittmar

I’d love to see pictures of this fantastic event. The article stated even the mechanic was misty eyed. I cried reading this article. I was surprised to see a democrat at the airport to see this hero in.

6 posted on 08/03/2008 4:32:37 PM PDT by antiunion person (President McCain, God help us all.)
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To: mdittmar

I live about 20 miles north of Kevin.
Think I’ll see if he’d like to take a flight in my plane.

I’ll get back to ya.

7 posted on 08/03/2008 6:32:31 PM PDT by Joe Boucher (An enemy of Islam)
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