Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, a medically retired war veteran, finally returned to his hometown in Hawaii after serving two tours in Iraq and after surviving nearly fatal wounds during the Fort Hood shooting in 2009.


Zeigler officially retired from the U.S. Army on October 20, 2014 after undergoing years of therapy for the injuries he had sustained in 2009. He had just returned home from his second tour in Iraq and had only been back for a few days after a year’s absence when he became a victim of the terrorist attack at the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center. The sergeant was shot four times, once in the head. He was one of forty-five casualties.


Zeigler spent a year in the hospital, undergoing full-time rehabilitation after surviving a severe brain injury that caused him to lose about twenty percent of his brain. His fiancée, Jessica, never left his side. She promised him that when it was all over, she would take him back to Hawaii.


Since leaving Hawaii, he has been longing to go back. While it’s far from their current home in Minnesota, it is, for Ziegler, the place he truly calls home. He grew up there, spending much of his time at the beach and often participating in water sports such as surfing. Hawaii is also where he and Jessica met.


That long-awaited moment finally arrived for the couple. On December 3, Air Compassion for Veterans and its partner provided the flight home for Patrick, Jessica, and their one-year-old son, Liam. It was their first trip together as a family since Liam was born.


The couple celebrated their 25th anniversary while in Hawaii, as well as Zeigler’s military retirement.


“It doesn’t matter where we go; the most important thing is that we get to be together,” said Jessica. “We are grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”