Gwinnett plans weekend salutes for Lansford
At his home for the near future --an on-base apartment Walter Reed National Military Medical Center --Justin Lansford stays very busy.
The Brookwood grad and Army infantryman, critically injured in April by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, goes through four hours of therapy every morning and keeps going for most of the day. Thanks to a prosthetic left leg, he can now walk around with a cane regularly and drive himself around the area in his Jeep.
That daily routine will serve Lansford well this weekend during his whirlwind tour back to Gwinnett that will feature a jam-packed two days of salutes to the hometown hero.
"I would imagine I'll be pretty exhausted (after the weekend)," said Lansford, who has recovered from his life-threatening injuries and infection. "I stay pretty active here, so I'll probably be OK physically. Mentally, it will probably wear me down seeing everybody, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of friends I haven't seen since I joined the Army."
The 23-year-old, who was promoted to sergeant this week, flies into Atlanta on Friday afternoon in time to watch Brookwood, where he played high school football, play a home game against South Gwinnett. A welcome procession for Lansford's motorcade is planned from Ga. Highway 124 down Dogwood Road between 5 and 6 p.m. Well-wishers who want to support him are encouraged to park at Grace Fellowship Church and cheer him on from there to the high school, where he will be honored during a halftime ceremony.
His alma mater also will gather money through the evening for the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), which is the beneficiary of a Saturday meet-and-greet with Lansford from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Wild Wing Cafe in Snellville. From there, he will make an appearance at a Gwinnett Football League game in Buford, where he will receive a check from the league for the WWP.
Later Saturday evening, the Gwinnett Gladiators will recognize Lansford as the hockey team's hometown hero at the start of the game's first intermission.
For those in Gwinnett who followed Lansford's tragic injury and recovery earlier this year, this week will give people a chance to thank a true American hero in person. He gave his leg serving his country, but he's quick to point out that other soldiers gave more, like 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Walsh and PFC Michael Metcalf, who both died the same day Lansford was injured.
Those two are always in Lansford's thoughts as pushes toward complete recovery and independence. People in Gwinnett will see him in much better shape this weekend than he was earlier this year.
After months of laying down, he's just happy to stand up again.
"I felt taller," Lansford said of getting back on his feet. "I had sat around for so long, when I stood up I was almost afraid of heights."
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.