CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — The crowd at Outlaw Field Airport erupted with cheers the second that Staff Sgt. Charles “Chaz” Allen’s plane touched the ground.
Allen, a member of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., was not able to come home from Afghanistan with the rest of his unit in April.
Instead he was undergoing surgery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after stepping on an improvised explosive device in January that destroyed part of both of his legs and broke his right elbow.
Allen was told a few people would be at the airport when he returned on Saturday, but that was not the case. More than 100 people attended.
“I didn’t know my wife knew this many people,” Allen said with a laugh as soon as he got off the plane.
Allen was in good spirits upon his return.
“You all can come up and hug me,” he said. “Free hugs.”
Allen walked on metal prosthetic legs, using the aid of crutches, through a crowd of supporters with his wife and two young daughters at his side. His father and several other relatives followed close behind as he hugged and shook hands with members of the crowd.
“I’ve got my family here and they are helping me with everything,” Allen said. “I’m just glad they love me for who I am.”
Allen was met at the plane by a line of American flags held by a motorcycle group called the Patriot Guard Riders. The guard escorts military personnel and their families at departure, welcome home and funeral ceremonies.
After Allen had greeted his family and met with many members of the crowd, Clarksville Councilman Nick Steward made some brief remarks.
“You are not just a survivor, you are a champion,” Steward said. “Every obstacle you encountered on your road to recovery you handled in such a way that you inspired and motivated everyone around you.
Much of the large crowd was assembled because of invitations and news releases sent out by Steward.
“Residents of Clarksville have a spirit of appreciation for what our soldiers do,” Steward said. “When these people heard Allen’s story they wanted to be here to show him their appreciation.”
Many in the crowd wore blue T-shirts with logos that said “Team Allen.”
The shirts are being sold to raise money for the Allen family. One of the founding members of the team, Demetria Hale, a family friend, has been donating money from her photography business to the family as well.
Another fundraiser was held in Nashville on Sunday at the Bella Napoli Pizzeria.
General Manager Jason Connor heard Allen’s story from a friend. Over the last three months he has organized a fundraiser including musical guests, a silent auction and drink sales. All of the money raised on Sunday was donated to a fund dedicated to building the Allen family a single-story, handicap-accessable home.
“We heard that a soldier was in a time of need and needed a step up and we answered the call,” Connor said.
Late Sunday night “Team Allen” organizers posted on the team’s Facebook page that more than $16,000 was raised from the event.
Mark Woods, who is the founder of Operation Troop Aid, an organization that arranges care packages to be delivered to troops overseas, aided Connor in the fundraiser. OTA, with support from Harris Jewelers, raised $3,000 to be used for the Allen family fund.
Reach Logan Todd at 270-877-3239 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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