By Linda Looney-Bond
U.S. Army Sgt. David Battle, a Clayton County resident, is finally scheduled to come home Saturday - 18 months after he stepped on an explosive device in Iraq, and lost his right leg and hip, and left leg below the knee.
His injuries resulted later in an arm being partially amputated.
Clayton County Police are leading a multi-jurisdictional and community effort to welcome Battle home to much fanfare after he and his family land at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to Clayton County Police Lt. Tina Daniel.
"We're [Clayton County Police] providing the escort from the airport to his home," said Daniel.
"Along the route, the different fire departments from different jurisdictions will also participate and show their appreciation. Our [Clayton County] fire department, at one of the intersections, is going to have the ladders crossed, making an arch for them to come through," Daniel said.
Daniel said the Clayton County Police Explorers, a group of students ages 14 to 19, will also participate by placing yellow bows and red, white and blue bows along the route to Battle's Fayetteville home, which is located in Clayton County.
Battle, 29, has been undergoing surgery and treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., since he arrived at the hospital on Christmas Day, 2007, after being injured on Dec. 18 that same year, according to Michael Louviere, Georgia state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders.
"We are a group of like-minded individuals most of whom ride motorcycles, many of which are veterans, who are dedicated to supporting our veterans, active-duty military - especially those who have given their all and died for their county - and those who have been wounded, defending our freedom," said Louviere.
Louviere said at least 200 members of the Patriot Guard Riders are expected to be on hand Saturday for Battle's homecoming.
The riders have also led an effort to make Battle's existing home in Fayetteville wheelchair accessible.
"Our project was to build out the unfinished basement in his home and provide access to the upper floor of his home so that he ... [can] enjoy time and meals with his family," the organization said in a statement.
Battle, his wife Lakeisa and their four children, have been living at Fisher House near Walter Reed Army Medical Center, according to Louviere.
"We just hope the entire community comes out on Saturday when we welcome him home, so he can see that patriotism is still alive in the United States, Georgia, Fayetteville and Clayton County," Louviere said.
"We've had tremendous support from the Clayton County Police Department, City of Riverdale, City of Fayetteville, and Atlanta Police Department at Hartsfield airport for making this a safe escort, and for helping us bring attention to the community," he said.
"It's imperative that the soldiers realize that they're getting support," said Daniel. "You see people line the streets when a soldier's body is being returned, but we should also line the streets when they're alive, to show support and thank them for the job they've done."
Daniel said residents are encouraged to line the streets of Battle's route home Saturday between 1:40 and 2 p.m.
The procession will travel down Ga. Highway 54 at McDonough Road in unincorporated Fayetteville. It will then travel east to County Line Road, and travel south on County Line, into the Emerald Lake subdivision, which is a part of the River's Edge subdivision, according to Daniel.
"I just really hope that everybody's able to show up for a few minutes, considering what he's given," said Daniel.