EL PASO, Texas - On Monday ABC-7 told viewers about an injured Fort bliss soldier who contacted the station prior to returning from Afghanistan.
Staff Sergeant Jaime De La Paz would be meeting his five-month old daughter for the first time, but the unselfish soldier's biggest concern was an injured corporal in his unit returning to El Paso with no family to greet him.
He got a surprise Monday night.
De La Paz's email touched our newsroom. So ABC-7 set out to make sure, with help from viewers, that Corporal Mario Bravo would get a special homecoming.
When Bravo and De La Paz stepped off the plane about three dozen El Pasoans were there to greet them. Chester Bryant said after seeing our story, he had to be there.
"As a Viet Nam veteran, who didn't receive this kind of welcome when I came home, it just shows solidarity between servicemen," Bryant said.
Bravo was emotional over the scene.
"Pretty amazing that many people come out just to see two soldiers come home," Bravo said. "But it felt very good to be welcomed."
When told it was his staff sergeant that made the homecoming happen, Bravo wasn't surprised.
"He's the type of NCO that always thinks about his soldiers," he said.
Bravo and De La Paz were injured May 20 when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). Upon their arrival, they were taken by ambulance to Beaumont Army Medical Center, where De La Paz got to hold his five-month old daughter, Jade, for the first time.
"It's a big difference carrying a weapon to carrying a little baby girl," De La Paz said with a smile. "So, it was an emotional moment for me."
Jade was born two weeks after De La Paz deployed.
"My little girl was staring at me trying to figure out who I am for a bit," De La Paz said. "She'll get used to me after a while. But it was an amazing moment. It was awesome."
As for what he did for Corporal Bravo:
"It's the greatest thing in the world being able to come home and see a group of people appreciate what you did," De La Paz said. "A lot of people think the war is over. Obviously, it's not. A lot of people are still out there, still doing their job, still working out there, still getting hurt, still getting killed."
What De La Paz did for Corporal Bravo deserves recognition, but it was ABC-7 viewers, he said, who ultimately made the homecoming happen.