(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Humble and dressed in his Army fatigues, Pfc. Brett Bondurant arose from a locker room door using his two canes to help him walk across the basketball floor he once played on.
Then the near-capacity crowd at George “Bud” Bateman Gymnasium at Lawrenceburg High School erupted in a cheer louder than that heard at any basketball game. These fans were welcoming a true hometown hero.
“It means a lot to see the community rally around somebody like myself who got hurt. The yellow ribbons have been awesome,” the 21-year-old soldier told his audience.
Bondurant, who was on his first tour of duty since joining the military in May 2010, lost both legs in the explosion of an improvised explosive device while serving with his Army unit in Afghanistan September 28, 2011. Some of his fellow soldiers were killed in the blast, several more hurt.
Brett lost both his legs in the attack, but – as Monday’s Brett Bondurant Day festivities in Greendale and Lawrenceburg illustrated – he gained countless friends and the adoration of all southeast Indiana.
“I’m glad you’re all here, that way I don’t have to go and knock on every door around here to thank all you guys,” Bondurant said to chuckles.
One of those friends gained is Boy Scout Johnny Weber. The Russian-born 15-year-old was adopted by a Wausau, Wisconsin family three years ago. He made Brett his Eagle Scout project, but the relationship has blossomed into much more.
“From the moment I learned of Brett being injured, I found myself in deep prayer following so many different emotions. It was as though I knew Brett for many years. Yet I only actually met Brett this weekend, and much like I thought, he’s a really cool guy,” Weber began his ten minute address putting details of Bondurant’s sacrifice into words.
“I love our veterans and soldiers, and because every day I wake up with freedom that completely surrounds me in a country that now welcomes my very best. As an orphan, I would dream only in black and white, and since I got adopted I began to dream in color. Now I dream in red, white, and blue,” Weber said to long applause.
Bondurant was also given plaques from Greendale mayor Doug Hedrick and Lawrenceburg mayor Bill Cunningham designating December 19, 2011 as Brett Bondurant Day in each city.
The ceremony was a perfect display of community patriotism. It included a rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” by Lawrenceburg High School choral students. Kindergartners sang the Star Spangled Banner with third graders later adding a song of their own.
A parade through downtown Lawrenceburg followed the convocation.
As hundreds of people lined the parade route, Bondurant and his newlywed wife, London, rode in a big gray pickup truck waving to the onlookers. The Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group which often assists in soldier homecomings and funeral escorts, rumbled behind them.
Bondurant will spend much of the rest of Monday evening hugging, shaking hands, and getting reacquainted with folks at a public meet-and-greet at the Lawrenceburg American Legion Post until 8:00 p.m.
After visiting home through Christmas, Bondurant plans to visit a fellow member of his Army unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He’ll then return to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas to continue his rehabilitation.