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Injured Cocke Co. soldier receives hero's welcome home

12:29 AM, Nov 19, 2011   |    comments
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Homecoming celebrations for an East Tennessee soldier, who was wounded in Afghanistan, took place in two counties Friday night. 

Private First Class (Pfc.) Jack Keener arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport in Blount County at 4:30 p.m.  His wife, Destinie, and baby son, Mason, greeted him, along with his dad, and aunts. 

"It's good to be here. Very glad," said Keener.

Then they drove to Cocke County, where Keener grew up and where his family still lives.  When they pulled in to the parking lot of the Brandywine Creek Steakhouse, they were greeted with claps and cheers from an army of friends, family, first responders, local government officials, and veterans. 

"It means a lot, and glad to be supported by my home town, and just really thankful to be here," said Keener.

Mickey Keener, Pfc. Keener's grandmother, was one of the first people to embrace him in the parking lot.

"I prayed for him every day and prayed that God would take care of him.  I did that from the time he left, going in to the service, and I still am. God has watched over him," said Mickey Keener.

Pfc. Keener was shot in the abdomen, sustained shrapnel wounds, and took a blow to his right shoulder in September.  His unit was in an Afghan village when a roadside bomb exploded and then they took on small arms fire.  Keener was sent to Brookes Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas for rehabilitation, where he has spent the past two months.  Keener's wife and baby spent two weeks there, but hadn't seen him for several weeks before Friday night.

Sheriff Armando Fontes organized Friday night's homecoming in Cocke County.  Dozens of vehicles, including fire trucks, vintage military vehicles, and law enforcement cars gave Pfc. Keener and his family an escort to their home.  Sheriff Fontes called it a "united front," This is an individual who made a decision to go and risk his life for the welfare of others, and he deserves to be recognized, and he deserves to be honored."

Keener will be home, in Cosby, for two weeks, spending Thanksgiving with his family.  Then he returns to Texas for two months for more rehabilitation.  After that, he will go to Alaska, where he is stationed, to request a medical leave from the Army.

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