Bennington Gives Hero’s Welcome to Injured Army Ranger

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(Host) Bennington had two parades this weekend. The annual Fourth of July celebration was held Sunday and on Saturday, townspeople lined the streets to give a local soldier wounded in Iraq a hero’s welcome home.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Sound of horns honking, crowd cheering.)

(Keese) Corporal Ricky Greene rode back into Bennington on the back of a mustang convertible Saturday, hugging his fianc e to his side. Green’s a Bennington native; he’ll turn 23 this week. He’s a member of an elite Special Ops force, the Army’s 75th Ranger division.

He was injured in May while firing his machine gun from the back of a Humvee in an undisclosed part of Iraq. In the heat of battle, a U.S. Army tank turret swiveled and struck him in the face.

The parade ended at the memorial outside the Bennington Veterans’ Home. Standing tall, the popular young soldier hugged relatives and friends and showed off his Ranger Patch and purple heart. In a brief ceremony, Greene said it was for them he’d risked his life.

(Greene) “I want to thank all of you for coming out. I didn’t do this for the money or for the damn patch. I do it for something bigger than that -friends and family, that’s what I do this for. I love all you guys. I just want you to know that. Rangers lead the way.”

(Keese) Greene wore his tan Ranger beret and a black patch over one eye. A fresh pink scar under his chin is a souvenir of an 18-hour surgery to repair broken facial bones. He’s looking ahead to two more surgeries

Greene’s mother, Wendy Greene Baker, spent seven weeks with her son in Washington where he was at Walter Reed Hospital.

(Baker) “And I just can’t thank you all enough. Thank you so much.”

(Keese) Community donations and help allowed her to be there to hasten her son’s recovery.

(Baker) “Because if I couldn’t have been there with him – they gave us six months in Walter Reed, I got him out of there in seven weeks. I did exercises with him, he’d put his feet up here and we’d do this till my back couldn’t take it no more. A lot of arm wrestling.”

(Keese) Baker says she plans to continue with her son’s therapy until he’s fully or almost fully recovered. Greene is on a 30-day leave before he returns to his base for a medical evaluation. His highest hope is to return to his unit. His mother says she’ll respect that. But she also mentions that Greene loves children.

(Baker) “I sent him a case of candy bars when he was in Afghanistan and he never ate one of them. He gave them to all the little kids over there.”

(Keese) Baker says she wouldn’t mind seeing him settle down with his fianc e to start his own family.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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