A wonderful homecoming for a Soldier who almost didn't make it. Ryan's recovery is one of those miracles we always pray for.
Veteran's welcome home: 'People you don't even know appreciate what you have done'
Posted: August 16, 2013 - 3:35pm
By Beth Reese Cravey
He had been home for quiet visits before, in between surgeries and rehabilitation, since he was severely wounded while serving in Afghanistan in 2012.
But Army 1st Lt. Ryan Timoney, who grew up in Mandarin and St. Johns County, had never received a hero’s welcome home. The kind with a police escort and screaming fans and signs made especially for you and getting to ride in a cool convertible.
“I never ever imagined myself having something like this,” Timoney said. “Coming home and seeing people you don’t even know appreciate what you have done. It feels really good.”
His first clue that this 10-day visit would not be typical was the Florida Highway Patrol escort from the Jacksonville International Airport. His second clue was when his father, Greg, who was driving Timoney, his wife Kelby and mom Diane to their Julington Creek home, made a pit stop at the Fields Cadillac dealership on the Westside.
Dozens of military veterans on motorcycles were there, as well as many more state troopers and officers with the Jacksonville and St. Johns County sheriff’s offices. Also there was Kathy Signorile, who founded the St. Michael’s Soldiers volunteer nonprofit that organized the event, and her husband, Jim, general manager of the dealership, who had arranged a special ride for Timoney and his wife.
They were driven the rest of the way home in a 2012 BMW convertible, escorted by a large contingent of the veterans and law enforcement officers on motorcycles and in vehicles. A rolling roadblock cleared the way on Interstate 295 south.
As the motorcade passed St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Mandarin, which Timoney attended, the entire student body was standing in line at the edge of the campus to wave to him.
“Going by my school ... It was wonderful. They were screaming,” he said.
Kathy Signorile said everyone who she and her 150 volunteers asked to help with the event jumped on board.
“That’s all you have to do in this town. People step up. They love our military,” she said.
The veterans said they participate because they and other war heroes have not always been greeted enthusiastically upon their returns.
“One generation of veterans will not abandon the new generation,” said Darryl Ingle, one of the other veterans on hand. In the past, returning veterans were not appreciated, much less welcomed.
“That should never happen,” he said.
Timoney, 28, left for Afghanistan in April 2012. Less than a month later, he and five other soldiers were attacked by a suicide bomber. Two of them were killed, three injured. Timoney had a fractured left leg, shrapnel wounds to his abdomen, arms, legs and back and a devastating head wound from a ball bearing that crossed through his brain and lodged behind his right ear.
In Kandahar, surgery saved his life by relieving pressure on his brain. He was later moved to a hospital in Germany and then to Walter Reed in Bethesda, Md. Since then, Timoney has had multiple surgeries and hundreds of hours of physical therapy. One surgery replaced the portion of his missing skull with titanium, another amputated his left leg a few inches below the knee. At least one more surgery is expected within the next year or so, to remove that ball bearing.
Still, he has a positive outlook.
“God kept me a live for a reason,” he said.