Hilltop Lakes Residents Welcome Home Soldier Back From Afghanistan

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HILLTOP LAKES, Texas - A local soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan returned home to Hilltop Lakes in Leon County Tuesday to a surprise welcome home party.

News 3 was there for the emotional celebration for a hero.

Stars and stripes, waved proudly in this parade in the Hilltop Lakes community of Leon County.

Army Specialist Owen Thornhill was wounded in Afghanistan where he has served for nearly the past year.

"Everything's great. Lots of love, I mean there's no place like Hilltop. Great community, great people. Didn't grow up here but they adopted me as one of their own," said Thornhill.

Swen Crone with the Hilltop Lakes Lions Club helped coordinate the surprise homecoming. The Lions Club also set up more than 50 American flags for the drive in.

"We think it's just wonderful that this young man is serving our country and sorry that he got wounded, but we're glad to come out and show him support on his short return home," said Crone.

Residents of all ages stood in support including 91-year-old World War II Veteran Mary Stewart.

"We're just welcoming one of our Afghanistan Veterans home after an injury and it's a great privilege for me to do that," she said.

"I just want to be out here to let him know that we appreciate his efforts and carry on what we started way back yonder," said Robert H. Cochran, a Hilltop Lakes World War II Veteran.

Bill Fathke is a Vietnam Veteran and retired Air Force Pilot.

"Freedom is not free. We lost a lot of people there and we're losing more now and we just need to honor these guys when they come back," he said.

The Hilltop Lakes' hero also met one of their oldest residents.

96-year-old Bill Hodge served in the Navy during World War II.

"He came to a good place with good people," said Hodge.

"There's really no place like America especially not like Texas," said Owen Thornhill.

A soldier who can see just how much this community cares.

Owen attended Texas A&M before deployment and hopes to finish up in about a year.

The public is invited to a reception in his honor on Monday at 3 P.M. at the Hilltop Lakes Community Center.