The Cedar Valley welcomes home sailor Taylor Morris - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

The Cedar Valley welcomes home sailor Taylor Morris

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Thursday marks another special day in the long road to recovery for US Navy EOD Tech Taylor Morris.

The wounded Cedar Falls sailor is home Thursday night for the first time since sustaining major injuries in Afghanistan. Morris lost both legs, his left arm, and right hand in an IED explosion. In the months since, his friends and family members have documented his recovery through a daily blog, stunning photography, and regular social media updates.

When friends learned Morris was coming home this weekend, they decided to try and surprise him with a community-wide parade. Initially, the parade was meant to be kept a secret from Morris, but he learned about their plans on a social media website. Even though he knew what was happening, there is no way he could have prepared for the welcome he received.

Thursday, he walked out of a Waterloo airport terminal, and was greeted by a great crowd of well-wishers. As usual, Morris had his longtime girlfriend Danielle Kelly at his side.

Hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders and local families lined the parade route from the Waterloo Regional Airport to Holmes Junior High School in Cedar Falls. For most people, the sacrifice Morris has made is hard to grasp. But a few people in Thursday's parade know how close he came to never coming home at all.

Sgt Quentin Hamilton, a member of the US Marine Corps, rode behind Morris in the parade.

"I heard that he was coming home. One wounded soldier to another, I just wanted to say hi and welcome him home," he explained.

Hamilton recently received a major welcome home himself. The Cedar Falls native has spent months recovering from an IED explosion which left his leg and foot badly injured, and killed his best friend. He recently began walking again, two months ahead of schedule, and he knows Morris' recovery will be a long one.

He was honored to follow Morris in Thursday's parade, and said he didn't want to distract from the sailor's celebration.

"It's pretty awesome," Hamilton said of the turnout. "He deserves every bit of it. It's a miracle."

Patriot Guard Rider Jeff Nichols is another person who understands Morris' sacrifice. His son, Specialist Donald Nichols, was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

"He would be happy that we're doing what we're doing," he said of his son.

Nichols couldn't welcome his own son home, but he was honored to welcome Morris -- a man he considers a true American hero. He also feels nothing but pride to see thousands of people paying tribute to the sailor.

"It's Iowa, that's what we do here. It's the best place in the world to live," said Nichols.

Morris and Kelly are looking to spend their weekend home out of the spotlight, but they did want to let the community know how much they appreciate the continued support.  They issued the following statement to KWWL:

"Hey guys I want to thank everyone for giving us the time and space we need. You have showed us how truly professional and respectful you are. It really feels awesome to know the entire community has our back and is supporting us 100% throughout this whole ordeal. We have felt it since day one and have been constantly reminded throughout these past few months. We want to say thanks to everyone for being here today to welcome us home; we feel it is too much but appreciate every last one of you showing your love and support. Cedar Valley you rock!"

There's no question, they'll need all the support they can get, and there's no shortage in the Cedar Valley.

As one might expect, Morris' friends documented all of Thursday's events with video and still photography cameras. You can expect to see the parade through Taylor and Danielle's eyes soon on their blog, taylormorris.org.

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