East Texas soldier returns home after months in hospital

By Morgan Chesky - email

Posted By Molly Reuter - bio - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Partially paralyzed, Army Medic Andy Burnett of Tyler spent months fighting for his life in San Antonio's Walter Reed Hospital.  Recently, he spent time in Florida learning to use his arms and hands again.  Saturday, however, the East Texas hero found his way home.

A family met at a church Saturday to welcome their brother home.  Friends, family and members of Welcome Home Soldiers gave Army Medic Andy Burnett, 23 an overwhelming reception, but Burnett, a soldier prepared, had a strategy.

"Just smile and keep going forward," said Burnett.  After four months of rehab to regain control of his hands and arms, Burnett took time to enjoy the moment.

"It's just a good feeling knowing that you still have people in the world that care about you and are there for you," said Burnett.  One of those people, a surprise visitor stationed with Burnett overseas, Sergeant First Class Rodney Eubanks.

"We found out we're both from Tyler, had a couple of long conversations and a whole lot of bad meals together," said Eubanks.

"I never expected him to be here, so yeah, it was definitely good to see him," said Burnett.  Shaking hands and sharing stories, Burnett admitted at first he didn't even want to take part.

"I was totally opposed to the idea, but then I got to thinking that this is my opportunity to say thank you to them, for those prayers and those thoughts and the phone calls and the letters," said Burnett.  "I been getting letters from people I never even met, so it's a real good morale booster."  Giving Burnett a family he never knew he had.

Despite his disabilities, Burnett says he's upbeat and says you just have to keep moving forward.  Not surprising, according to soldiers who were in combat with him last July, Burnett continued to call out instructions while being placed on a stretcher.