KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — It has been a month to remember for Kokomo native and Army veteran Joel “H-Train” Hunt, who competed in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, last month.
Since leaving Russia, Hunt visited the White House, where President Barack Obama awarded him a medal; received a reception at the Indianapolis International Airport, where he was interviewed about his experiences; then came home to Kokomo to a welcome party at the VFW Post 1152, 920 N. Washington St.
“I appreciate it. The homecoming was terrific,” said Hunt of last weekend’s VFW party.
“They had people fly in and meet up with me for my special day. The VFW made me feel like a rock star,” he told the Kokomo Tribune.
“My friends that came surprised me. I didn’t realize how many lives I have touched. Still at times I have self-esteem issues, so things like this really feel great.”
Hunt, a 1998 graduate of Northwestern High School, was injured in a 2005 roadside blast during his third deployment to Iraq in three years. Along with being paralyzed, Hunt suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Now he competes in ski racing events as a way of rehabilitation.
Hunt learned how to ski at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Colorado in December 2008. From there, he went on to become a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Paralympic Military Development Team.
In Russia, Hunt competed in the giant slalom and finished 24th out of between 40 and 50 other skiers.
During Hunt’s welcome home, there was dinner and live entertainment, and Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight issued a proclamation honoring Hunt’s service and willingness to help other veterans.
“After his traumatic brain injuries, he’s made such an unbelievable comeback,” VFW Commander Ken Fisher said of Hunt’s desire to overcome his disabilities.
“He was blown away by the reception. He also was surprised that we selected a band with a few kids he went to school with. All around, it was a great evening.”