"It was a bit excessive. There were balloons, banners, and a lot of people," Sgt. John Ricketts said, recalling his arrival Friday night at Sky Harbor Airport.
"Flying home was the happiest moment in my life, because until then coming home didn't seem at all possible."
Wounded in Afghanistan in May, Ricketts has returned from Warrior Transition Brigade in San Diego to spend the next 30 days with his family and friends, enjoying the holiday season in Ahwatukee. The banner that welcomed this Purple Heart hero home stated: "In all things...give thanks!" The Ricketts explained this slogan became the theme throughout the entire process of John's injury, recovery and rehabilitation.
Ricketts was injured last May while serving as a gunner for the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan. His vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device during a routine convoy patrol of a mountainside.
Doctors deemed Ricketts would remain in a semi-vegetative state and never walk again. He proved them wrong.
"They told me I can't (walk), and I said you can't tell me what I can and cannot do."
He added: "I feel as though I have been resurrected, my life has been saved, and I'm so thankful to God."
In August, Johanna Ricketts' wish was to spend this Christmas season with her son. Now, she is praying that John's visit home will encourage him and renew his strength for the journey ahead.
Ricketts has decided to have both of his legs amputated below the knees and replace them with prosthetics, so that he can leave his wheelchair behind. Even though he has managed to walk on his own two feet; Ricketts is still dependent on a wheelchair.
"My doctor said that I won't be able to run on my feet, and that won't do. If I have a random whim to run, then I want to run." The amputations will most likely occur two to three weeks after Ricketts returns to his home in San Diego.
He moved to San Diego from the VA in Palo Alto the week of Dec. 12. The Warrior Transition Brigade in San Diego specializes in amputations and the occupational therapy with prosthetics that follows.
Johanna Ricketts said "John has been provided with the best care possible, and we know his transition will allow him the best recovery from his future medical care."
John Ricketts has big plans for his future, besides training for an off-road triathlon, he wants to return home to Phoenix when he is officially released from the military in November.
Amanda Petersen is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Horizon Honors High School.