October 31 this year will have more to celebrate than candy and costumes. U.S. Army Specialist Doug Harris, recently wounded in Afghanistan, is coming home.
On May 30, Harris,21, was struck by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Along with a numerous gashes and contusions and a broken elbow, Harris lost his right leg as a result of the explosion and his left leg was later amputated.
After undergoing hours of surgery, he has been working his way through recovery at Bethesda Army Medical Center in Maryland since June with the support of his parents, Somerset residents Lisa and Charles Harris, and his younger sister, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jessica Harris.
And now he’s coming home.
The Union Mine graduate will arrive at the Sacramento International Airport on Oct. 31 at 11:10 a.m on American Airlines Flight 2209. He will be picked up by a Hummer limousine and escorted by an honor guard of police and Patriot Riders up Highway 50. Banners, flags and people will be waving from every overpass along the way to welcome him home.
“We’ve got to welcome home the guys who aren’t coming home in a box, too,” said Colin Matte, post commander of Sierra Nevada VFW post 2680. “The more people we can get to be on those overpasses and along the way, the better because we’re trying to tell him that we love him and we’re glad he’s home and alive.”
California Highway Patrol will join the motorcade at the El Dorado County line and Matte hopes that fire engine companies will be able to join the welcomers on the overpasses. The motorcade is expected to pass the Scott Road overpass around 12:15 p.m.
Harris will be driven to the VFW Hall at 130 Placerville Drive where the VFW is hosting a spaghetti lunch celebration from 1 to 3 p.m.
“We want people to drop by and shake Doug’s hand and welcome him back,” said Matte.
Harris received the prosthetic for his right leg in mid-July and for the left leg in early August. Friends of the family and VFW members poured concrete stairs and built railings so Harris could access the family home.
“We were going to build a ramp, but after I saw how well he was getting up and down stairs all over the Pentagon, we decided to keep the stairs,” said Charles Harris, Doug’s father. Charles Harris has been home alone for the past four months maintaining the family home, caring for their three dogs and working at his job. “I’ve been back there a number of times, but I’m really looking forward to having a kid in my house again.”
Lisa Harris, Doug’s mother, has been at Bethesda with her son since he was transferred there from Afghanistan. “She’s his non-medical caregiver,” said Charles Harris. The two now live in an apartment on the army base where Doug is learning to live independently.
Harris will be home in El Dorado County until Nov. 12 when he and his father will fly to Ft. Lewis, Wash. to greet members of his battalion, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 5th Battalion, when they return from their one-year deployment to Afghanistan. Then he’ll return home again before going back to Bethesda Army Medical Center at the end of November.
“He will be there for the next year to year and a half completing his rehabilitation,” said Charles Harris.
“He’s still got a long road … in recovering,” said family friend, Brenda Morgan.
Whether you come in costume or not, join El Dorado County at the Sacramento International Airport or on one of the Highway 50 overpasses to welcome home one of our own. The public is also welcome to attend the VFW Welcome Home spaghetti lunch from 1 to 3 p.m. at the VFW Hall, 130 Placerville Drive, Placerville. The lunch is free, but all donations will go to support Doug Harris in his recovery.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.