CONCORD, N.C. -- The Harleys rumbled, and flags waved behind them in the cold December air.
Dozens of motorcycles from the Patriot Guard Riders rolled into the parking lot of Crosspointe Baptist Church in Concord to help welcome home a Concord soldier injured in Afghanistan.
Tyler Jeffries, 23, was injured October 6th when he tripped an IED – improvised explosive device – while clearing a village in Afghanistan. The blast tore through both of his legs, and they had to be amputated at the knees.
Pam Britt, Jeffries’ mother, remembers getting the phone call that her son had been injured.
“Worst day of my life,” said Britt. “All I knew is he was alive and had a bilateral amputation of both legs, and that's all they told me.”
Four hours later she got a phone call from Jeffries himself, affirming he was alive in a field hospital. His next stop was Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to recover from his injuries.
But Jeffries isn’t one to give up without a fight.
“He's a fighter,” said Britt. “He's a true soldier through and through, and he's pulled through this.”
Just 11 weeks after the explosion, Jeffries walked – yes, walked – into his welcome home party on two brand new, prosthetic legs.
A Facebook page called “Supporting Tyler Jeffries” shows a video of Tyler standing up on the new legs November 30th. Another one posted just five days later shows how much progress the former baseball player made in a few short days.
“It's been really tough and a lot of pain,” said Jeffries, recalling his physical therapy. “You just have to grit your teeth and bear it sometimes.”
He admits there have been setbacks, but his mother has been there the whole way. Her employer, a distributor that works out of Food Lion’s Salisbury headquarters, has allowed her to work from Maryland so she could be with him.
As Jeffries took the microphone on stage, he talked humbly about his warm reception.
“You guys give me a lot of credit for the things I do,” he said, “but there are still a lot of people over there doing the same thing I did.”
He thanked the Patriot Guard Riders, and accepted flags that had made the nearly 400-mile trip to Concord from Bethesda with them. A tattered American flag rounded out the gifts – a flag the bearer said “was new at the beginning of the trip.”
Jeffries said he’d rather be with his “brothers” in Afghanistan, if he could.
“I can't stand the thought of me being here, and eating all this good food and meeting all these people and having all these good experiences, and they're still there sucking it up in Afghanistan,” he said.
“I want to go back and help my guys out and do what I need to do, because I have a lot of unfinished business over there.”