An Army Hero Comes Home

By Rachel Martin

April 19, 2012 Updated Oct 18, 2013 at 5:31 AM EDT

NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- PFC Rex Tharp comes home after enduring a life-changing injury.

It's the first time he's been home since August 2011.

“This is great! This is awesome! This is amazing! I wasn’t expecting anything like this, it’s crazy!”

Rex tharp has been in physical therapy at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland since January after he lost his leg in a bombing in Afghanistan. His mother, GeeGee was there with him.

“It's been life changing, life altering,” said GeeGee. “I’m just glad that we still have him. He’s go three friends that will never have the opportunity that he has to be home with family and friends.”

With his prosthetic leg and a cane, Rex walked out of Fort Wayne International Airport through a tunnel of Patriot Guard Riders holding American flags. The tunnel led to a surprise Camaro, donated by Shepard Chevrolet, for his ride home.

“Oh my God!” exclaimed Rex. “I’m driving that!”

Rex and his family were led by eight police escorts and over 100 Patriot Guard Riders to his hometown of North Manchester for a homecoming parade and celebration. Main Street was lined with everyone in town, waiting for his arrival.

“I didn’t realize what actually supporting the military meant until I had a child in the military,” said Stephanie Bekel. “Just to see all these people standing out here and actually showing their support is very touching.”

Bekel has a son who is a Marine. “Thank cannot be enough. From the bottom of my heart and my soul, we so appreciate what these men and women go through and what they sacrifice for us. I know a lot of people don’t support the war, but I hope after seeing people come together for situations like this, they can at least support the troops.”

Rex says, it's the people of his hometown that keep him going.

“It’s rough at first, but you can’t stop because it’s not going to help, you got to keep going” said Rex. “I could sit down and be upset about this all day long or I can just keep going with it.

“I could never experience anything other than North Manchester, I really couldn’t. The people are great, my family’s amazing. My friends, I’ve known them since kindergarten. I just have this amazing support group and it would be a lot harder without them,” said Rex.

Rex was supposed to be promoted to Specialist in February, but his injury postponed the title. Rex says his Platoon leader is working on the details, and he should be awarded soon.

In the meantime, Rex will celebrate his 21st birthday on Friday. Indiana’s NewsCenter asked Rex how he plans to celebrate. “You don’t want to know,” said GeeGee.

“I probably won’t remember” laughed Rex.

“He’ll be straightening up from after tonight, probably,” added his father, Bob.

Rex will only be home for 12 days, and on April 30, he’ll return to Maryland to get his running leg and endure more physical therapy. Rex says he’ll go through his medical board for the next year or so. “After I’m done with that, I’m going to get out and medically retire and go to school.”

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