AURORA, Illinois -- Police, Fire, EMS, and veterans were brought together by Donna Morsovillo, founder of Operations Welcome You Home, to lead 75-year-old Vietnam veteran Army Sgt. Matt Thomas from the hospital to his house west of Chicago.
"I got a little emotional before, but seeing all these people, you can't help but get that way," Thomas said.
After spending 74 days in the hospital, he won another battle for his life, this one against COVID-19. His wife Lori and loved ones are thrilled to see him back.
"It means the world, because at least I have another chance with him. I get to spend more time," Lori Thomas said.
But amid the jubilation, the reunion, was the bittersweet edge of a palpable loss.
"I almost died. My wife got me the last rites of the church. My son died and he was a hell of a lot younger than me," Thomas said.
Thomas' son Chris, who was 34 years old, succumbed to the COVID-19 virus on June 13.
"Old people sometimes do survive. It's not always for the old. And the young ones that thought they were invincible now are finding out the hard way," Thomas said.
Now, Thomas and his wife are going to look after Chris' young children.
"The young one, he looks to the heavens and points to the clouds and says, 'My dad's up there,'" Thomas said. "Now as an honor to my son, I'm going to make sure that they have a good life."
Thomas said he knows he has the support from family and friends. They have a message to those of any age not taking COVID-19 seriously.
"My dad's 75-years-old and he beat it. My brother was 34 and he died from it. It doesn't matter how old you are, or how young you are. It doesn't matter. It's terrible," said Thomas' daughter Amy.
The warmest of welcomes back for a hero was a bright spot for the whole family.
"That's like the first happy day I've had in 74 days, finally seeing him home and walking and talking," Lori said.
Vietnam veteran, 75, survives COVID-19 but loses son, 34, to virus