Hometown embraces wounded Marine

Reichenthal photo Boston Herald 5.29.11
‘OVERWHELMING’: Evan Reichenthal relaxes in his room in Princeton yesterday during the Marine lance corporal’s first trip home since he was injured in Afghanistan. Photo by Chitose Suzuki/Boston Herald

By Renee Nadeau Algarin | Boston Herald | BostonHerald.com | May 29, 2011

A Princeton Marine seriously injured in Afghanistan made his first trip home in nearly six months just in time to be honored in his hometown’s Memorial Day parade.

“It’s been long awaited. Being home is a very far-fetched idea when you’re in the hospital going through surgery almost every day,” said Evan Reichenthal, 20. The Marine lance corporal had been in Marjah, Afghanistan, for only six weeks when he was injured by an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol. He remained conscious as he was thrown 20 feet, suffering injuries that cost him his right leg as well as causing burns, ligament damage and severe nerve damage.

Reichenthal was treated at the Naval hospital in Bethesda, Md., and then at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he underwent 23 surgeries. Despite his extensive injuries, he is already up and walking.

His mother, Cheryl Johnson, has been by his side since January.

“Just him being here and being safe — as a mother, that’s what my heart is excited about,” she said. “The day-to-day things that you always do have more meaning because we’re all together.”

The young hero’s homecoming was low-key, he said. He and his parents drove eight hours from D.C., arriving home at 8:30 a.m. Friday to find a few people planting flags in the family’s yard.

Today, Reichenthal will be honored in Princeton’s Memorial Day parade.

“They’re going to pick me up here at 12 in a World War II Jeep. I’ll be riding around in the parade,” he said. “I’m not the kind of person that likes attention, so it’s going to be a little overwhelming to see all those people, but I’m excited.”

Reichenthal will receive another honor at the celebration today, when his younger sister, Halie Johnson, 10, and the town’s other Girl Scouts present him with a $650 check they raised for him; he has asked that it be given to the Semper Fi Fund, which helps injured Marines and other service members.

“It felt really good that people were doing this back home, that there were people back home taking care of me. It just seemed very generous,” he said. “(The Semper Fi Fund) helped me out a lot, so I want to give back to them.”

Reichenthal will be home for a month before returning to Walter Reed for another year of rehab. In the meantime, he is looking forward to hanging out like any other 20-year-old.

“Just being normal again,” he said.

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