Welcome home: Community lines the streets for PFC Matt Stubblefield

January 2012 Posted in Community, People

By Dixon BledsoeWell wishers lined the streets on Dec. 22 to welcome U.S. Army PFC Matt Stubblefield back to Silverton.

U.S. Army PFC Matt Stubblefield’s received an amazing and remarkable Christmas gift on Dec. 22.

It wasn’t wrapped with ribbons or bows. Instead, it arrived on a wave of applause and cheers along with American flags and “Welcome home” and “Thank you” signs.

Stubblefield received the gift of appreciation and gratitude from the more than 2,000 people who lined the streets of downtown Silverton to welcome him home.

In April, while serving in Afghanistan, Stubblefield was riding in a Humvee hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).  The bomb hit on Stubblefield’s side the hardest, and of the six soldiers injured in the powerful blast, Stubblefield’s injuries were most serious.

He was flown to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C. where he has spent eight months undergoing dozens of surgeries, along with hundreds of hours of rehabilitation.

On Dec. 22, Stubblefield and his family were met at the Portland Airport by the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcycle riders who escort veterans home. A large crowd of well-wishers met the young man at the airport, and the motorcycle brigade led him to Silverton where he was met by the Silverton Police Department, Silverton Fire Department, and close to 2,000 cheering fans.  A white limo brought injured PFC Matt Stubblefield and his family home to Silverto, where people gathered to welcome and thank him.

His father, David Stubblefield, said the support to welcome his son home was overwhelming for Matt and his family.

“Yesterday was fantastic. We knew a few things were going to be going on, but the response was just incredible. Matt was overjoyed,” David Stubblefield said. “My brother-in-law rented a limo and the entire family got to bring him home to us. It is hard to describe the support he received from his hometown, and he would like to thank everyone who had any hand in all of it. It was just awesome that so many kind people would come out in the cold to welcome him home.”

Silverton Police Chief Rick Lewis, a Vietnam-era veteran, helped organize the welcome committee events.

“It was just the right thing to do. Matt is a vet, a young man who has served his country, and my neighbor. He is a really good kid,” Lewis said. “My main interest is to honor him and his sacrifice. I saw how vets were treated coming home from Vietnam, and things have changed so much, all for the better. You might be against the war, but you support those who served. Silverton’s response on such short notice was inspiring.”

“Our soldiers don’t get enough recognition these days and it is wonderful how caring and supportive our community is for Matt. I just had to be here,”  Tiffany Kuenzi said.

Like others attending the parade, her eyes were not dry during the short, but moving event as the limo slowly made its way down North First street amidst dozens of U.S. flags, the Patriot riders on motorcycles, and fire and police lights flashing all around.  Willow White and her mother Mikayla came, too.

“We are here to support Matt. We had a friend pass away recently in service to the Army, so we are honoring him and everyone else who sacrificed.”

Greg Doeden, with son Mychal and daughter Leah had to come, too.

“We are here to honor vets in general. It is good to have a local hero come home, and to have kids learn to appreciate what these veterans do.” Well-wishers lined the streets to greet Army PFC Matt Stubblefield.

Matt Stubblefield will be home for 30 days, and then return to Walter Reed for more surgery, rehab and recovery. His mother, Debbie, who has been there through the entire process, will accompany him back to treatment. He lost one leg; doctors are working to save the other. The amputated leg has been replaced by a prosthesis. The other leg has had some infection and has a hole in it that doctors are trying to repair.

Matt Stubblefield is a member of one of the most storied Army groups around – The Big Red One out of Kentucky. It deployed almost immediately after the Silverton man, 20, completed training.

On April 3, an impersonal but deadly IED changed his life.  Dec. 22, hundreds of people stood in 30 degree temperatures to say a personal, “Welcome Home, Matt. And thanks.”

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