(CBS) — The principal of Waukegan High School is back at work after nearly a year away to serve his country and recover from injuries suffered in Afghanistan.

“I don’t expect the kudos. It’s just what you do. Hearing it, it’s almost like you’re talking about somebody else,” says 48-year-old principal Brian Riegler, who returned to work yesterday.

He says he did not want a big fuss made about his return to work like the school assembly that was held in his honor when he left last spring to serve in Afghanistan as a commander in the Navy Reserves.

But, Riegler didn’t get to walk into school unnoticed.

“Yesterday morning, when I walked into the building, our ROTC unit snapped to attention and clapped me all the way down to the office. It was an emotional time and good to be back,” he says.

Riegler says the Waukegan HS ROTC program is the largest in the country with about 800 students taking part.

Riegler says that, in August of last year, insurgents attacked his base and a car bomb threw him head-first into a concrete wall. He was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury for the “severe concussion” he suffered and he’s been recovering ever since. He says there are some “lasting effects with memory and other issues” on the order you’d see from a bad concussion caused during a sporting event.

Riegler was awarded a Purple Heart for being injured.

“It’s a nice award to see but it’s nothing I ever wanted,” he says. “To me, it’s kind of a target medal for the enemy as one of my former chiefs used to say.”

Riegler was recently honored at a Chicago Blackhawks game. (Courtesy Brien Riegler)

Riegler was recently honored at a Chicago Blackhawks game. (Courtesy Brien Riegler)

Among the reasons Riegler says he doesn’t want everyone at the school to shower him with honors is because he lost “some good friends” while in Afghanistan.

“The guys I served with are the real heroes,” he says.

The married father of five says he returned to the Chicago area a few weeks ago after spending time at a rehab center in Virginia.

“I’ve got a six month old son I wanted to get to know…was born while I was gone,” he says.

Riegler and his wife have daughters in college, and 7th and 8th grades, a pre-school age son and a six-month old son.

In May, Brian Riegler marks his 30th year in the military. He says he plans to stay in the military at least another couple of years, maybe more.

“They may have to kick me out,” Riegler says. “It’s just kind of part of my life for 30 years. Been more in the military than out. It’s just something I can’t imagine, right now, not doing.”

Instead of having an assembly on his return to Waukegan High, Riegler says he intends to visit classrooms and talk to students in smaller settings.

And, he says his experiences can translate into lessons for students, as well.

“We talk to the kids about the dedication. You say you’re going to do something, you follow through,” the principal says.