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A crowd of supporters awaits Lt. Byler as he arrives in a limo.

This morning at Tri-Village Park in Greenlawn, a welcome home celebration ceremony was held for Lt. James Byler. The event included a police escort, a program with a number of dignitaries speaking emceed by Mickey B of WGBB, and a full day of Little League Baseball.

The day began with Lt. Byler arriving in a limousine to a throng of supportive locals, who lined the main parking lot of the field, cheering and waving American flags. From there, Lt. Byler wheeled down a red carpet into the baseball field where the day’s ceremonies were held.

Byler, a veteran of the Marine Corps, was injured in Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device, which took both of his legs and a number of fingers from his hand.

Gabrielle Mank sings the National Anthem

A number of dignitaries were present at the event including Assemblymen Andrew Raia and James Conte, Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia, Asharoken Mayor Pat Irving, Tom Romaine, the county director of Veterans Affairs, and town council members, Susan Berland, Glenda Jackson, and Mark Mayoka.

Many of the officials present gave praise to Lt. Byler. In a public statement, Councilwoman Susan Berland said, “as a town, we all need to join together, raise this $300,000 and give lieutenant Byler the home he deserves.”

In a public statement, Councilwoman Glenda Jackson stated, “It is just a privilege to be able to come together to honor someone [Lt. Byler] who has given so much for us so that we can have our liberties that we have today that we so often take for granted, so I thank him so much for what he’s done for us” before adding, “We’re thankful to have someone like you as a hometown hero.”

Councilman Mark Mayoka makes a brief statement.

When asked for comment, Councilman Mayoka remarked, “the funding is coming in, and I’m happy to see the flow of monies and contributions from so many people in the town of Huntington that are reaching out and helping their own hometown Huntington hero, and I’m encouraged by it and I’m confident that we will meet our goal of $300,000. We’re close to 50,000 right and the next event will be the Engeman Theatre on June 24th and then after that we’re going to have a boxing match toward the fall, and I’m confident we will meet our goal of $300,000 before that time.

Lieutanant Byler holds a plaque given to him in honor of him being a hometown hero.

Additionally, Wayne Geno and Joe Heid of the Tri-Village Little League presented a plaque to Lt. Byler, praising him as a hometown hero.

The event meant a lot to the entire Byler family.

When asked for comment, Lt. Byler said. “A day like this memorial day, to me it’s awesome to get the reception I’ve gotten but I think about the guys who didn’t come home, those are my heroes. Those are the ones in my mind that deserve a lot of recognition, because they didn’t get to come home at all. I got to come home, I’m with my family, a warm loving community, I’m lucky. I just wanted to say that and events like this, it’s not about feeling bad for me, it’s a celebration of what I still have really.

I asked Philip Byler, Lt. Byler’s father for his thoughts on the event and he replied, “I’m actually very happy for this event for the community as well as for James. It gave an opportunity [for the community] to show they care. It means a lot to our marines and soldiers in harm’s way. We live in a world of peace, while they deal with the sacrifices of war and with James we see those sacrifices and it’s just been a wonderful experience to see that.”

This evening at 7pm, there will be a live reggae performance at Tri-Village Park to cap off the celebration. There are also a number of raffles today that will benefit Building Homes for Huntington Heroes, an organization that builds homes for wounded combat veterans that is currently remodeling Lt. Byler’s home.

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