GARDNERVILLE- With the collar of his black T-shirt, Pfc. Daniel Tingle wiped away tears as hundreds of people showed up at a reception Saturday to welcome the wounded soldier home.
Former teachers and coaches, high school friends, active, retired and former military and hundreds of strangers packed the banquet room at Sharkey's Casino in Gardnerville to greet the 21-year-old Douglas High School graduate who was wounded by a mortar round in Iraq in January.
"Every day I think about my unit and pray one day that I will be back at their side," Tingle said.
"People call me a hero. I think I got the easy way out. I'm not the hero. It's my brothers who are still over there and my fallen brothers," he said before calling for a moment of silence in their honor Saturday.
Tingle, a 2004 Douglas High School graduate, was injured early in January in Baghdad. He has undergone nearly 20 surgeries in an effort to save his left foot.
Home for a month on convalescent leave, Tingle is to return to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in late March to continue therapy and treatment.
Tingle's grandfather, Bill Lepore of Minden, a World War II Navy veteran, recalled a telephone conversation he had with the young soldier after he was wounded and sent to Texas for recovery.
"He said, 'I feel guilty. The job's not done. I left my buddies back there,'" Lepore said.
"I told him, 'Daniel, you don't have a thing in the world to feel guilty about. You did your job,'" Lepore said to a rousing ovation.
Tingle, dressed in jeans and an Army sweatshirt with his 20-year-old wife, Megan, at his side, arrived to applause as he made his way on crutches through the banquet room.
He greeted every guest who lined up to meet him with a handshake, or salute.
Retired Army Col. Jack Osborn, 80, wore his uniform to the reception.
Osborn served in the Navy in World War II and as a medical officer in the Korean War.
"I'm here to honor this young man who got hurt," Osborn said. "I was lucky enough to get through two wars without an injury."
The Sierra Nevada Blue Star Mothers, who helped organize and decorate for the event, presented Tingle's mother Tina Luce with a banner with her son's name.
Tingle also was presented with a proclamation from Gov. Jim Gibbons declaring April 13 Pfc. Daniel Tingle day.
The outpouring of support was deeply felt by Tingle's uncle, Bill Lepore, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam and remembers his homecoming almost 40 years later.
"There were no crowds or people clapping, no parties or patriotism," he said. "My faith is restored. Today, people are behind the soldiers whether they support the war or not."