Jeremiah Thein returned home to Bakersfield on Monday to make a special appearance in the annual Veterans Day parade. The veteran became a double amputee serving in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Thein and his family are still living in San Diego. It's close to the naval medical center where he's rehabilitating. But, during the parade he got a taste of the support he has waiting for him right here.
Thein's eyes seem like they couldn't move fast enough trying to take all of the sights in, the flags, the thank you's, the support coming from the Veterans Day parade crowd.
"Like, I appreciate it a lot that people appreciate the things that we do over there," said Thein. "So, I am very grateful that everybody came out just to see this."
Jeremiah rode on the Wounded Heroes float alongside fellow veterans, and, now friend, Wesley Barrientos.
"Hopefully, he knows and understands how much this town loves him and the community wants him back, and we are glad to have him back," said Barrientos.
Bonnie Padgett couldn't contain her gratitude watching Jeremiah pass by, yelling, "Thank you for your service, sir! Thank you!"
"I just hope that everyone who sees him today thanks him. Thank you is just two small words, but it can mean so much if you haven't heard them," said Padgett after Thein passed by.
As so many stood in awe of Jeremiah, he was in awe of the rock star response he was receiving.
"Jeremiah Thein is with us," said parade announcer and KGET anchor, Jim Scott. "He's one of our wounded warriors. Jeremiah, welcome home, buddy."
After the parade, Jeremiah recounted, "He was like, Jeremiah Thein is here. And, I'm like, yeah! Wait, wait. Who is that? Oh, hi."
Jeremiah then laughed. That smile is thanks to the thousands who lined the streets alongside Jeremiah's wife, Ashley and their now three-month-old, Jeremiah Junior, who watched dad in his first Veterans Day parade.
"It looked like half of the city was out here. There was a lot of people out here," said Thein of the crowd.
They were people observing Veterans Day. But, for Jeremiah, it's proof the community will continue to care even after the parade is over. There's support ready to embrace and welcome him and all of our service members home.
"It just makes me so happy how many people came out here to support us. It's a blessing, you know."
The Wounded Heroes Fund is building Jeremiah and his family a home in Bakersfield. Jeremiah says when that is done, he and his family will move back here.
He expects that to be sometime late next year.