Kouts welcomes home Marine wounded in Afghanistan
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org December 15, 2012 10:18PM
Marine Lance Cpl. Scott Herma (left) receives a medal Saturday, December 15, 2012, from Dale Ready, the senior rank captain of the Indiana Patriot Guard as Herma returns home to Kouts. | Matt Mikus~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 16, 2012 2:44AM
KOUTS — It’s been less than a month since Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Scott Herma was shot during a tour in Afghanistan. After five surgeries and therapy, he came home Saturday to a welcome fit for a local hero.
Herma met his family at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport around 5:40 p.m., and headed to his grandmother’s house in Kouts. Heading south on Indiana 49, the car pulled into the Heartland Christian Center in Valparaiso where members of the Indiana Patriot Guard and residents of Kouts were waiting.
Flags lined the parking lot as the family pulled in. The crowd cheered as Herma emerged from the van, signed banners and shook hands.
Indiana Patriot Guard senior captain Dale Ready, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, presented Herma with a freedom pin and a medal to show their appreciation for his service.
“He’s a hero in my eyes,” Paul Mateer, one of the Patriot Guard members, said. “He shed his blood for my freedom, there’s nothing we won’t do for him to make him feel at home.”
Patriot Guard members often ride their motorcycles to provide an escort to soldiers who have died in battle, or for veterans’ funerals. Mateer enjoyed the fact that today they celebrated a soldier returning home.
“We’re going to make all kinds of noise to let the town know their hero is home,” he said before the escort into town.
Ready described the Patriot Guard as an umbrella organization, comprised of members of various veteran groups. Many members were veterans of the Vietnam War, and were determined to guarantee that soldiers returning would feel welcome and thanked for their service.
“They are signing a blank check to our government, up to and including their lives,” Ready said. “My heart goes out to them.”
Although they didn’t ride motorcycles this night due to the rain, he was happy to see the huge turnout of cars and trucks decked with American flags.
Herma, 21, has served for three years in the Marines and has been deployed twice. His second trip was to Afghanistan, where soon after arriving, he was hit by enemy fire while on patrol. His family was gathered at his parents house, so when he called home to tell them of the injury, and that he was soon going into surgery, the entire family found out together. Amber McConnachie, Herma’s sister, remembers her mother getting the call at around 6 a.m. and hearing his brother’s voice on the other end describing what happened.
“It sounded like something that came out of a movie,” she said. “He was rushed into surgery after he was shot, and then they let him call us.
“We were grateful to hear from him first,” she said, “we were still worried, but at least we knew he was OK when he called.”
The military followed up with an official notice an hour later.
Herma was transferred to a hospital in Germany where he spent a week recovering. When he was stable, he was transferred to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. His recovery continued, and his family flew out west to visit with help from the Semper Fi Fund.
While Herma was surprised by all those who welcomed him home, he still thought about his fellow soldiers.
“I’d rather be back with my guys,” he said.
Herma will spend the holidays at home until January, when he’ll head back to San Diego where he’s stationed.
Those interested in assisting wounded veterans or Marines can visit www.woundedwarrior.org or www.semperfifund.org.