SARATOGA SPRINGS — People along Lakeview Terrace Road have always been patriotic, but when one of their own comes home after a long time away, throwing a celebration is what any good neighborhood would do.
“We’ll have people lining up from all the way to the end of the school and up,” Storme Cooper said ahead of Friday’s celebration for her 75-year-old grandfather.
“Everybody is going to be here, guys. Like, the whole neighborhood. They love my grandpa,” Leah Allen said of Warren Craig Eby, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
“He’s quite a guy,” a neighbor wearing a Vietnam veteran hat said.
“He’s my hero,” Cooper said. “That man has turned our world for us. He does everything he possibly can for his family.”
However, Eby’s homecoming some 50 years ago didn’t come with a celebration.
So his family figured he should get one when he came from the hospital after fighting a different kind of war — one against COVID-19.
“He survived a lot,” said Cooper. “So, we weren’t going to let COVID take him.”
Eby tested positive for the novel coronavirus two months ago and got to the point where doctors weren’t sure he’d make it.
“They said there’s just not a chance. His lungs were too damaged and they said to plan on going home on hospice,” said Lauren Cooper, one of Eby’s daughters.
Slowly, though, he fought that enemy and started to get better.
Seven weeks later, he was well enough to be released from the hospital and go home.
His family, friends and neighbors decided to surprise him with American flags lining the street he lives on, people cheering his return with homemade welcome home signs, and an escort with police and firefighters.
“We’ve all been praying for him so hard,” said a neighbor as she waved two American flags.
It was the parade he never had.
As Eby arrived with his escort he smiled and waved to people.
“Oh, you guys are wonderful. All of you. Thank you,” said Eby to the crowd of people outside of his home.
He was wearing a mask, but you could tell he had the kind of grin only survivors of the virus and Vietnam would understand.
Eby was finally home with his family.
“I’m in my house,” said Eby. “I can’t believe it.”