AKRON, Ohio - A soldier blinded while on duty in Afghanistan received a hero's welcome in his northeast Ohio hometown.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Hale, who was blinded one year ago, returned Saturday to his alma mater, Revere High School in Bath Township near Akron.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the 34-year-old Hale called the homecoming amazing, terrific and humbling.
The 1996 Revere graduate attended Bowling Green State University. He served in the Navy from 1999 to 2007 as a cook and then joined the Army and was trained to disarm bombs.
Hale was blinded on a mission to disarm an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
As Hale approached to disarm the bomb, it detonated, breaking bones throughout his face and blinding him permanently.
He has undergone more than 20 surgeries since the explosion.\
His wife has endured her own ordeal this year. She was diagnosed with and has been undergoing treatment for malignant melanoma.
The couple believes his wounds led to the discovery of her cancer. They were staying at a guest house while he was being treated in Augusta, Ga., when a nurse spotted a lesion on her collarbone and told her she needed to have it checked.
She underwent surgery that day.
In military circles, the day someone survives a near-death encounter is called his or her "Alive Day." Hale said he was happy to celebrate the anniversary of his Alive Day on Saturday with hometown people at the high school where he played football and lacrosse.
A group called Building Homes for Heroes is putting on the finishing touches to a home the Hale family is being given in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
Students and faculty members in the Revere school district have collected nearly $3,700 for the family.