MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. -- On Memorial Day it was an emotional homecoming for an injured soldier allowed to come home to his family.
If one could picture Memorial Day, it might look a lot like the setting at Darlene Lunsford’s home.
There’s an American flag swaying quietly. The family musicians play bluegrass on their front porch, and other family members cook hamburgers on the grill.
“We love you, this is a celebration of you coming home,” said Darlene Lunsford as her son Jason stepped out of the car.
Extended family and neighbors have all come to this special Memorial Day barbecue. They are all here to welcome home a hero.
The very first question NewsChannel 36 Reporter Michelle Boudin asked the National Guardsmen revealed the emotion of the day.
He choked up as he said, “I’m just glad to be home and back with my family. It’s hard to stay away for so long.”
He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq in August of 2009 when a Humvee rolled over him, pinning him under the back.
His family got frustrated as red tape over paying for his medical care kept Jason at Fort Bragg instead of allowimg him to recover at home.
His brother, Jesse, said, “he got to Fort Bragg and we kept hearing we’ll send him home in a few months, then a few months, and two years later he wasn’t home yet.”
But on Memorial Day, Lunsford is home for good, set to retire from the military next month.
“Now I’m home I don’t have to worry about missing kids growing up and everything else,” he said.
But the homecoming is bittersweet.
“It’s hard because of the friends that I lost…” but he adds, “…just being able to be back home at family cookouts, I missed it for the last three and a half years and now I don’t have to worry about missing it anymore.”
Jason spent 14 years serving with Belmont's National Guard unit. His accident left with him short term memory loss, an injured back and leg.
His church is taking up a collection for him. To donate contact the East Belmont Church of God at 704-825-8845.