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Jay Reeves, Associated Press
In this Jan. 31, 2012 photo, Marine Sgt. Ben Tomlinson checks his cell phone for messages after working out at his home in Jacksonville, Ala. Tomlinson was badly injured in Afghanistan and is now using a wheelchair because of paralysis. Tomlinson's hometown gave him a homecoming celebration that he said inspired him to work even harder on his rehabilitation.

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. — Shot through the upper back on a rooftop in Afghanistan and gasping for breath after a bullet ripped through his chest, Marine Sgt. Ben Tomlinson had a fear worse than death.

The round damaged his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the chest down. Yet through all the pain, Tomlinson was haunted by the idea people back home wouldn't remember him, that they wouldn't even know he was hurt.

Tomlinson's hometown of Jacksonville, in northeast Alabama, made sure he wouldn't feel forgotten. Thousands lined the streets and packed the town square to greet Tomlinson upon his return from the war, waving flags and giving money to help make his home more wheelchair accessible.