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Parade Welcomes Home Injured Erwin Vet

Hundreds turned out for a parade in downtown Erwin Saturday to welcome an 82nd Airborne soldier wounded in Iraq.

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Pfc. Richard Kolath
ERWIN, N.C. — The American Legion arranged for a parade Saturday to welcome home an Iraq veteran who lost his right leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Hundreds of people lined the streets in downtown Erwin and cheered Pfc. Richard Kolath, 19, of the 82nd Airborne's Bravo Company. A luncheon with family and friends followed in the Erwin Community Building.

The Auxiliary Banner Unit 109, based in Benson, started organizing the parade as soon as it learned the day that Kolath would be returning from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

An improvised-explosive device went off while Kolath was traveling in a convoy in Iraq's Anbar province on Jan. 11. Kolath was severely injured, and doctors had to amputate most of his right leg

"I'm fine, I'm alive and (mad) at the world, but I'm alive and that's all that matters to me," Kolath wrote on his MySpcace.com page about a day after the attack.

Kolath flown to Germany, where he underwent extensive surgery, before going to Walter Reed. There, he was fitted for a prosthetic and started physical therapy.

"I'm in high spirits and I still got a life to live and I'm gonna live it to the fullest," another MySpace.com posting by Kolath said. "I am in love with a woman that has brought me a new meaning to life."

Kolath participated in Triton High School's Junior ROTC program. He joined the Army after his graduation in 2006.

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Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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