GOWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Army Sgt. James Hackemer is well known in western New York. Since his injuries in Iraq, and his return home, we have been following his story.
Sergeant James Hackemer died Friday night at Darien Lake when he fell off the Ride of Steel. Back in October of 2008, Sgt. Hackemer returned to a heroes welcome in Gowanda. He had been in a rehab facility since March of that year. An IED blew up under his Humvee and he lost both legs.
His mother, Nancy Hackemer, said, "We've been waiting months for this and it's wonderful to have our son home for a visit and his recovery is phenomenal."
50 volunteer veterans with the NY Patriot Guard led the motorcade for Hackemer's return to Gowanda. His next challenge was to learn to use prosthetic legs.
"I want to live my life to the fullest from here on out. No regrets. Just looking forward to my life ahead of me," said Sgt. Hackemer.
A month later, News 4's George Richert interviewed Sgt. Hackemer again because the young soldier remembered visions he had of heaven and hell in Iraq when he was so seriously wounded. Doctors said he actually died twice on the battle field.
Sgt. Hackemer said, "I want people to know that God has been there for me since the beginning, has had his hand on me since the beginning. I want people to know that he is there for everybody. No matter what they're going through. Know that he's always there by your side. So, if you're down, just go to him and he'll pick you back up."
Earlier this year in April, there was another welcome in Gowanda for Sgt. Hackemer. After three years in several rehab facilities, the wounded young hero was beaming as he was greeted by hundreds as he returned home to stay.
"I never thought I'd see this day," said Sgt. Hackemer.
Sgt. Hackemer is survived by his parents, two children and many relatives in the Gowanda area.
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