Home From Iraq: East Texas Welcomes Sergeant Daniel Hurley

As a little boy, he dreamed of becoming a soldier and a hero. For National Guard Sergeant Daniel Hurley that dream is now a reality.
Saturday night, he was welcomed home to East Texas. About 35 family and friends gathered to show Sergeant Hurley just how thankful they are for his safety and service.
In Iraq, the villagers call him "Cowboy."
"They couldn't figure out how to say Hurley," the Sergeant explains, "and so they said 'Cowboy.' A lot of them know about Texas."
It's a fitting nickname, for a young man who seems to have no fear. You see, Daniel was not called for his mission in Iraq, he volunteered.
This 21-year-old's desire to protect Americans, began when he was just a boy.
"I've wanted to be a soldier," he said. "I remember when I watched 'White Christmas' when I was little and the first scene is a war scene. I was playing 'G.I Joe' ever since then."
So at the age of 17, a senior still in high school, Daniel joined the National Guard. While his Whitehouse high school classmates walked the stage at graduation, he was in basic training.
This was not the first time we sat down with Daniel. Last December, we caught up with him at Fort Polk Louisiana just before he was deployed to Iraq.
But on July 4th, Daniel got a bit of independence of his own and was able to come home for two weeks.
"Soon as I got off the airplane, my mom just started crying, dad was smiling. That's about right, moms cry, dads smile."
Daniel has received letters, e-mails even packages from home from the people he knows and plenty more from those he does not.
"I know East Texas alone," Daniel said, "shows more support for their soldiers than most other states do. Very patriotic."
 At home with his family, Daniel said Iraq is not far from his thoughts. He takes pride in protecting the Iraqi people. But then again, that's the true "Cowboy" way.
Sergeant Hurley will finish with his current term in 2007. But being the very dedicated soldier he is, he said he will sign up again and again until he can no longer serve.

Maya Golden reporting, mgolden@kltv.com