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Retired vet honored with belated homecoming celebration

  • Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class James Horton, left, wags a finger at his wife Tiffany Horton and her son David Lloyd for planning a belated veteran's homecoming ceremony with close friends and family at their home in Santa Rosa, Calif., on February 23, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

It was Sunday afternoon and Tiffini Horton, 48, was nervous. Her husband never got a genuine homecoming celebration. Well, today he was going to.

"He doesn't like large crowds, that's why we're keeping it pretty small today," she said, referring to her husband, James, who was due any moment at their home on a quiet side street in Rincon Valley.

Over the little front porch a banner hung. It said: "Thank you for your service Sgt. James Horton. We honor you."

Sgt. 1st Class James Horton's Belated Homecoming

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The sergeant first class, a 27-year military man seriously wounded in the Iraq War, had retired Feb. 17. That was when the Army, after a five-year bureaucratic battle, released him from active duty by recognizing the wartime injuries he suffered in 2008 in Fallujah, at the start of his fourth combat tour.

He was still recovering from traumatic brain injury, she said. Back and knee injuries still pain him. He has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suffers from nightmares, rages and sleeplessness.

"I'm nervous about his reaction," said his wife, who met him first when they were Santa Rosa High School students. "He's not going to be mad or anything, but, yikes, he's going to be overwhelmed."

A big American flag was mounted on the garage wall. Smaller flags were stuck in the lawn. Red, and white star-spangled crepe paper balls hung from the porch rafters, too.

Her husband was in Lake County with her son, Horton said, on a prearranged trip to look at property, a ruse designed to keep him away until the party preparations were complete. About 20 people, nieces, nephews, his sister, friends, had gathered outside in the warm sun to wait for his arrival.

She went inside and shooed a little white dog to the back of the house.

A car was heard.


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