The Adairsville Church of God, along with members of the American Legion, Georgia State Patrol, Adairsville Police Department, Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, Patriot Guard Riders, Bartow County EMS, Bartow County Fire Department and the governments of Adairsville and Bartow County welcomed Young back for his first visit to Adairsville since he was wounded. Young has roots in the Adairsville community and attended the church from when he was a child up until he enlisted in the Army.
Young was wounded in Afghanistan on July 23, 2013, while on patrol. A suicide bomber struck the group, killing four other soldiers and injuring Young. He had been in the country for approximately six months, he said.
“Mentally, I never have flashbacks about that. That’s another blessing because I don’t want to do that, go through this and have flashbacks of what happened and all that,” Young said as he spoke to media outlets from Bartow County and Atlanta. “Consciously I know what happened to me, but visually I didn’t see anything.”
A month after he was wounded, Young went to Tampa, Fla., where a Veterans Affairs hospital worked with him through therapy. Immediately after the attack, Young was paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair. However, his spinal cord was not severed.
“Let me tell you this: They can’t do an MRI because it’s magnetic and he has shrapnel in his body,” Adairsville Church of God pastor Ken Coomer said as he spoke to the crowd. “But what they do know is, the spinal cord is not severed. It’s in a state of shock. It’s all there, but it’s in a state of shock, you understand what I mean?
“... We heard the story when he came back he couldn’t move anything — nothing, couldn’t move anything, and he said his greatest sorrow was he couldn’t hold his baby girl. It wasn’t long after that he’d begin to move his arm where he was able to hold his baby. That’s a daddy for you.”
After spending approximately nine months in therapy, while regaining movement in his arms and some movement in his legs, Young decided he was well enough to visit Adairsville and the family he has in the area. When Bartow County Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Cuprowski heard of the visit Tuesday night, he and State Rep. Christian Coomer began planning a welcoming reception for Young. After getting off the plane Thursday morning, law enforcement vehicles and American Legion and Patriot Guard riders escorted Young all the way to the church, where he was greeted with cheers and waving flags.
Adairsville Mayor Kenneth Carson spoke first, comparing Young to a superhero.
“On the other side, I know that as a little boy I would see heroes — Superman, Spiderman — and today, Spc. Young, you are my superhero. I would like to thank you for all that you’ve done for us. Thank you, sir,” he said.
BCFD Chief Craig Millsap spoke on behalf of the county, as Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor was unable to be present for the ceremony.
“Thank you for the sacrifice that you’ve made and all the things that you’ve done that people don’t even realize. Public safety, the fire service, police, we hear the term hero thrown around a lot, and sometimes it loses some of the meaning of what a hero truly is,” Millsap said. “But, sir, what I want you to know is, to me, you’re the embodiment of a hero and I will always, always be personally indebted to you and, again, I thank you for your sacrifice and welcome home.”
Christian Coomer also thanked Young for his service and added the Georgia Legislature would be passing a resolution in his honor.
“I couldn’t bring it today. We didn’t have it ready, unfortunately. We’re going to get it to you. Words can never express just how grateful we are. I’m just so proud that you’re a part of the community that we’re all a part of, and anything that we can ever do to help you — you’ve already paid the debt and we’re all indebted to you. So thank you very much for your service,” he said.
With the remarks over, well-wishers had the opportunity to speak with Young in person. Members of the media also asked him about his experiences in Afghanistan and how being wounded had changed his life.
“Even if I stand up and walk it’s not going to be the same as it was. If I do walk, I know [I’m] not going to be 100 percent able to, like, go outside and run a mile again. So it’s already life-changing and not just that aspect, physically. Mentally I have a different outlook on everything. So everything has changed already,” he said.
Though he said Adairsville will always be home, Young said he would be staying in Tampa for some time as it has the resources he needs for his recovery. He described the city as his “new injured home.”
“That place is built for injured people. I feel comfortable there because I know no matter what, if something bad happens [with] this injury everybody there knows what to do, like everyone knows somebody who’s in a spot that I’m in. So that’s why I don’t come back and live [here],” Young said.
Already Young said he is beginning to think about what he wants to do once his recovery has ended. He said he thinks more about helping children rather than injured soldiers. His daughter’s mother had a “bad childhood,” he said, and it influenced his thinking.
“I’m more worried about kids. You know, like what’s going to happen to them to make them grow up to be better, because our society is going down the drain. So it’s just like, I want to help kids because they have no chance. An adult, they made decisions all their life — whatever decision they made, it put them in that predicament. But kids have no say-so,” Young said.
Being able to host Young’s welcoming reception, Ken Coomer said, felt like “ a million bucks.”
“[It feels] like multiple millions because he didn’t know he was an American hero. He didn’t know that, see? He was just going to come in on a plane, on a furlough for the weekend, and he’s got to go back on Monday. He was just going to come in like a regular guy,” he said. “... Nobody here can take credit for this, really, not Paul, not Chris, really. It’s the spirit of America that you see. These people came together like that ... Nobody can make that. ... We love our soldiers and we love our military men. We love them, especially when they pay a price like this.”
Cindy McGinnis, Young’s mother, returned to Adairsville as well for the weekend. She said she had moved to Tampa temporarily to be with her son as he recovered. She thanked the church and those who attended for their support during his return and after Young was wounded.
“Well, you know, you’re terrified as a mother at first, but just to see him progress like this, I have nothing but high hopes for him. It’s just like he says, if he’s stuck in that chair, life will go on. He’s just glad he’s here and I agree. I’m glad he’s here,” she said.
As the crowd began to disperse, Young said the enthusiasm and number of people welcoming him back had surprised him.
“It’s [a] wow factor. I didn’t know that many people knew. Like, maybe people know, but I didn’t know if they cared that much,” he said. “Knowing me and knowing my name doesn’t show you care, but this does. ... I expected the church to know me, but everybody in Adairsville ..., you know, got random people I don’t know that has my name on a sign. OK.”