CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- The Cedar Valley and all of Northeast Iowa are invited to help give a hero's welcome home to sailor Taylor Morris.
The Navy bomb detection expert will return about 1 p.m. Thursday to Cedar Falls for the first time since his deployment and the May bomb blast that cost him portions of all four limbs.
Morris was clearing a village area of explosive ordnance for U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. He is recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Ben Hagarty, one of Morris's childhood friends, said they want to fill the airport and line the streets between the airport and downtown Cedar Falls with love and support for Morris.
"We are just hoping that people are able to get off work and maybe come from school. We just want to line the roads and express our extreme gratitude. It's been a big thing for our community to see this whole thing happen and everyone has been so dedicated as far as following his story and participating online and sending letters and postcards and drawings," Hagarty said. "So many people around here have sent out love to Taylor."
Hagarty said they are doing their best to keep the homecoming parade a surprise from Morris, who spent the weekend in Tennessee at a NASCAR race with longtime girlfriend Danielle Kelly.
"(Danielle) is supposed to keep him off Facebook and his website, but I don't think he gets on that stuff too much. He's always reading blogs about electronics and nerdy things like that," Hagarty said.
Those who participate are asked to bring a flag, balloons or sign to welcome Morris home. The private flight is scheduled to land about 1 p.m. From there the motorcade, which will include a police escort and Patriot Guard and local AMVETS riders, will leave the airport and travel down Airline Highway to Main Street Cedar Falls. The "parade" will end in the 400 block of Main Street.
"Creativity is key here, but even if you don't have anything, it will be sweet just to see people all along the road cheering and everything," Hagerty said.
Morris received the Bronze Star with valor Monday in a medal ceremony posted by Kelly on his Taylor Morris Community Support Facebook page. He previously was personally awarded the Purple Heart by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Morris' grandfather, Sid Morris, a Korean War veteran, said he and and his grandson are also slated to appear as extras in "A Place for Heroes," an independent movie being filmed in Traer and Clutier. The movie stars Paul Sorvino and Sally Kellerman.
Many local veterans, recruited by Sid Morris on behalf of the filmmakers, are being utilized as extras for the film.
Courier news editor Pat Kinney contributed to this story.