Reporting Mai Martinez
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CRESTWOOD, Ill. (CBS) – While Americans are celebrating Independence Day tomorrow, one Crestwood family will have even more to celebrate – the safe homecoming of a soldier who had been serving in Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Spc. Brad Liberio returned home on Tuesday, and as CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, his family said his safe return makes this 4th of July a holiday to remember.
It was a “Welcome Home” Liberio never expected. Friends, neighbors and strangers gathered to say hello and thank you to the man they consider a hometown hero.
“It really means the world to me,” Liberio said of the greeting he received in Crestwood, after spending the past year serving overseas, mostly in Afghanistan.
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As he sat in his own backyard on Tuesday, it was hard for the 22-year-old to believe he was finally home.
“It’s pretty crazy. It’s overwhelming. I’ve been counting these days down for a long time,” he said.
His family has also been counting the days, and after two postponed trips home. His mother couldn’t fight her tears of joy.
“I just can’t believe he’s home,” Michelle Liberio said.
But those tears quickly turned to laughter as Brad settled in and unpacked.
Brad’s family said having him home for the 4th of July is the greatest gift of all.
“It’s awesome. It’s just great,” his mother said. “I just want to keep holding onto him, and smell him. It’s just awesome.”
She said Independence Day has a different meaning for her now, “because he’s home now, and we haven’t seen him for a year. This will be a great, great 4th of July with family.”
Brad’s father, Bill Liberio, said, “For my son to have served the country, it makes it all the more important to me. It really does.”
Spending Independence Day at home means more to Brad too.
“I can’t even imagine. I haven’t seen it in a long time, so it’s going to be really special. It’s hard to put into words,” he said.
Brad will be home for 30 days before he has to return to active duty. He said he’s most looking forward to just relaxing, and catching up with his girlfriend, friends, and family.
He’d also like to skydive, and eat at all the restaurants he’s missed –including Palermo’s Pizza.
He’ll also get to celebrate his 23rd birthday with his family on July 31.