MARIETTA - U.S. Army Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry still has a long way to go as he continues to recover from the explosion that cost him most of both legs and one arm.
But the father of the 2010 Frontier High School graduate is already looking forward to an amazing milestone.
"When he finally leaves San Antonio, he should be walking," Chet Hockenberry said Friday.
The younger Hockenberry has been treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio since he returned to the United States in late June following the detonation of a roadside bomb while he was on patrol in Afghanistan. The 19-year-old's parents, Chet and Kathy Hockenberry of Reno, joined him soon after and have been there with him for a month.
"He's improving every day," Chet Hockenberry said. "From then 'til now, it's just been a huge difference."
The elder Hockenberry said his son is still in the intensive care unit but has started some physical therapy. He has had multiple surgeries, with the most recent being some minor skin grafts for his legs.
How To Help
Bracelets ($2) and T-shirts ($15, $17 for double- and triple-X sizes) honoring U.S. Army Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry are available by contacting Staci Bland at (740)?473-2052.
Donations to the Kyle Hockenberry fund may be made at any Peoples Bank in Marietta.
Facebook group: Praying for Kyle Hockenberry
Chet Hockenberry said his son will remain in the hospital for several more weeks. Once he's discharged, he will remain in the San Antonio area for rehabilitation and to be fitted for prosthetics.
The work the family has seen Brooke personnel do with other soldiers gives them confidence that Kyle will be walking again in the future.
"They're doing an excellent job down here," Chet Hockenberry said. "It's one of the top medical facilities in the country. They care for the patient and the family."
Kyle has been able to speak with his family, including some by phone, thanks to a device attached to his tracheotomy tube.
"He just wants us here with him all the time, just to be around," Chet Hockenberry said.
That's possible because Kyle's parents have been granted leaves from their jobs, and an outpouring of support has helped the family with expenses.
"(We're) overwhelmed with all the support and we appreciate it very much 'cause it allows us to be where we need to be and that's here with him," Chet Hockenberry said.
A yard sale and community dinner brought in more than $32,000, said Staci Bland, a family friend who lives in Newport and has been heading up a lot of the fundraising activities. Bland said she has been surprised by the support from businesses and individuals as well as people from surrounding communities.
At the dinner, held July 16 at the Washington County Fairgrounds, a group of more than 200 motorcyclists rode in together in a show of support for the young soldier.
"There was not a dry eye at the fairgrounds when they rolled in," Bland said.
A car wash and catfish tournament have been held in Kyle Hockenberry's honor and Bland said some of his friends are considering a golf outing and a softball tournament. T-shirts and bracelets bearing his name are still being sold and there is an account set up for him through Peoples Bank to which people can donate.
Bland said she believes Kyle's youth and willingness to serve are inspiring people to help him and his family in their time of need.
"People see that he was brave enough to go over there and fight for us (so) we have to do something for him," she said.
The soldier's family has tried to convey to him the scope of what is happening in his home county.
"I keep telling him he has no idea what's going on back here, how huge it is," said his aunt, Stacy Hall, of Marietta.
A Facebook group called "Praying for Kyle Hockenberry" provides updates on the soldier to 759 members that include fellow soldiers, former classmates and people from all over the country, including Alaska and Texas.