SAN ANTONIO — After all the grief, Thursday was a time to give thanks for one tough kid who took five bullets and didn’t quit.

Ryland Ward, who was shot during a Nov. 5, 2017, church shooting, looks out the passenger window as he passes a memorial of crosses as he returns home after his release from the hospital in the cab of a firetruck Jan. 11, 2018, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Eric Gay, AP

Ryland Ward spent two months in the hospital since the Nov. 5 shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Devin Kelley entered the church during morning service and opened fire, killing 25 people and an unborn child, while wounding 20 others. 

Ryland celebrated a birthday while recovering at San Antonio’s University Hospital. But his biggest party was saved for when the 6-year-old finally left the hospital and returned home Thursday.

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Welcoming signs started sprouting on the firetruck's route at the Wilson County Line. At the wheel was Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Rusty Duncan, credited with rescuing the young shooting victim.

Ryland Ward, who was shot several times in the Sutherland Springs massacre, rides in a Stockdale firetruck with Rusty Duncan, the firefighter who rescued him, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Jan. 11, 2018.
Bob Owen, AP

And it wasn’t just locals who came to celebrate.

“I came from Canyon Lake to see young Mr. Ward arrive home,” Skip Cordes said.

“We’ve been doing prayers every day since day one that it happened,” Guadalupe Huerta said. “And the way he survived with all those shots, he’s got to be a special little boy.”

“He’s our hero,” Jeanne Rizzo said. “He survived a great ordeal and we’re proud of where he’s come from.”

Well wishers wave as Ryland Ward, who was shot during a Nov. 5, 2017, church shooting, returns home after his release from the hospital in the cab of a fire engine Jan. 11, 2018, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Eric Gay, AP

Many got emotional at the sight of the convoy bringing Ryland home.

“He’s been through more than most of us have been through in our whole lives,” Cordes said.

“I was going to buy balloons at H-E-B (grocery store), but they donated them to me,” Janie Boren said. “I started crying. It’s wonderful to be in a small town, and we love our children.”

The Ward family has requested privacy as they begin to build their new life. Ryland lost two of his three sisters and his stepmother, Joann Ward, in the massacre. Members of the church said they promise to do whatever it takes to help the family persevere.

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