Middle TN community plans soldier’s homecoming despite pandemic limitations


BELL BUCKLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Back from duty, a Middle Tennessee soldier will return home Wednesday. His community is determined to show its appreciation, despite the limits of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I hope that when my son gets home, he knows people are here for him,” says Cheryl Happel. 

Every homecoming deserves a crowd, a celebration, even in the midst of a pandemic. It’s what each military member deserves. 

“He said dad, no matter what you do, don’t make me out to be a hero,” says Brian Happel. 

Brian Happel and his wife Cheryl will say their son wants nothing of the sort. But Stephen Happel is coming home for good, after four years of service. An army specialist with the 82nd Airborne Division, his parents haven’t seen him in nine months. 

“It’s our family’s greatest blessing,” says Cheryl Happel, “(We miss him) with everything, with everything, it will be great to have him home.” 

The Happels have another son also serving. Doing so during the coronavirus outbreak weighs on them.  

This is what they’ve hoped for.  

“Having our children in each state away, apart from each other, knowing one is coming home, and to have our son home again after so long, it is a great blessing to us,” Cheryl says. 

And thanks to their neighbors in Bell Buckle, their son will get that homecoming.  There’s a plan to welcome Stephen as he drives into town. 

“Neighbors are going to come and put some signs in the front (yard), they’ve arranged for a cake, a welcome home celebration, a meal,” says Cheryl. “They will drive by and flash their lights, wave from the road and say hello, and welcome back.” 

A hero’s welcome, in a time when heroes are desperately needed. 

“We’re pretty excited to see his response, I know he’s going to enjoy that.” 

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