SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - It was a hero's welcome in San Jose Monday night, as dozens of Bay Area veterans and volunteers paid a special tribute to a United States Army soldier, who was seriously injured in the Iraq War a decade ago and is still recovering.
Ron Hinkle was all smiles, when he arrived at the San Jose Airport, greeted by fellow military men and women and volunteers all wanting to shake his hand.
"That's amazing," said Hinkle. "I've never come to an airport and been greeted quite like that."
The 41-year-old father of two from Kentucky was a gunner in the Iraq War back in 2006. He was medically discharged, after he was hit by an improvised explosive device near his humvee, spending weeks in a coma and 18 months in rehab. He lost a lung and now suffers from a traumatic brain injury as well as permanent nerve damage in his legs and arms.
"Coming back from the service is the hardest part," said Hinkle. "Even now with brain injury and different things, it's hard to adjust to different things."
Hinkle was handpicked by the nonprofit Veterans Sportsman Alliance based in Cupertino. The group helps injured and disabled veterans from across the country, taking them on outdoor trips. Hinkle's wife reached out to the organization to help with his depression.
"These guys need our help," said Brett Johnson of the Veterans Sportsman Alliance. 'They need communities to reach out and to help them. They need the national to reach out and help them."
"They are true American heroes to this country and we owe them at least this much," said Buzz Bickham of the Patriot Guard Riders.
The Patriot Guard Riders, San Jose Police and Fire, all helped escort Hinkle to the Bass Pro Shop in San Jose. There, they outfitted him with $3,000 worth of hunting gear. For the next four days, they plan to take him hunting in Hollister.
As for Hinkle, who's received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, he said recognitions like this mean a lot to him to help him heal.
"You feel the support," said Hinkle. "The support to help you get through things."
The Veteran's Sportsman Alliance's motto is to help one veteran at a time. So far, the nonprofit has helped 60 disabled and injured veterans since its inception in 2013.