Did you see my friend Taylor come home?

blog, Taylor Morris
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Taylor Morris

For those of you who don’t know Taylor’s story, I suggest you get caught up by reading about my first time visiting Taylor. It starts at the beginning of his journey and will get you caught up.

 

I had last visited Taylor, Danielle and Juli out in Washington DC in the middle of August, 2012. As we were packing up, Juli was chatting Riley and my ears off, as per usual. Her joyful chatter often hints at her wishes as a mother; whether it be what things she hopes for her son in the future or what changes to make to the website, there’s often a little “Easter egg” of requests. So when she began talking about how friends back home were wishing to welcome Taylor home with a small parade, I listened. On the way home, Riley and I talked a little bit about the politics of what would happen if Taylor “snuck” into town for the first time, unannounced to the community.  Taylor and Danielle were coming home for the first time August 30th to celebrate their very good friend’s wedding. I know Taylor’s wishes were to have his homecoming on the weekend of his official fundraiser to be held on October 19th, but we knew how symbolically important Taylor’s new feet touching Iowa ground for the first time would be to everyone.

 

When I got home, I contacted fellow “Team Taylor” member Ben Hagarty to brain storm ideas about throwing a small parade for Taylor the afternoon of the 30th.  Once the idea hit Ben’s brain, there was no stopping him, even if it wasn’t what Taylor wanted. He went out and contacted everyone he could about helping him get everything together in time. His uncle, Tom Hagarty, is a very active member of Amvets, and when he pushed a couple buttons and told a couple people what was happening, northeast Iowa lit up. All the news sources pushed the event, facebook went crazy for a week, area schools announced school would be let out early for the parade, and local businesses and community members put countless hours into making sure Taylor felt the love of the Cedar Valley when he got home. Ben ran around, got awfully sun burnt, and didn’t sleep much, but I’ll tell you what, he sure did rally up the troops! Literally!

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor’s immediate family and a few good friends waited on the tarmac for Taylor’s private flight to arrive.  The flight left about 40 minutes late, and even though schools were let out early for a heat advisory, no one would consider skipping out on the biggest welcome home party anyone has ever seen. Heat be damned, our community anxiously waited hours for their soldier to report back home.  The minutes leading up to his plane landing were so exciting.  We were receiving updates from the control tower saying “40 miles out, 30 miles out, 20 miles out.” We stood there, poised to run out to the plane, for what felt like hours. Once his twin prop “puddle jumper” touched down at ALO, we all cheered and headed out to greet him as the staircase lowered from the aircraft.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor’s grandparents on his father’s side, Sid and Alvira Morris, walk out to the tarmac wielding baloons and a camera. This would be their first time seeing their beloved grandson in person since his accident.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor’s grandfather, Sid, wraps his big, loving arms around Taylor. Of the 160,000 pictures I have taken in my professional career thus far, I don’t think there’s a single picture that captures more emotion than this.  Taylor’s dad, Dan, told me later that he can count on one hand how many times he’s seen his father cry. I know it was one of the happiest moments in Sid’s life–To be blessed enough to stand face-to-face and hug his grandson again against all odds.

 

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor’s grandpa Don Krull and his wife Bonnie were equally pleased to finally see Taylor.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

I think Taylor wanted to kill us when he first landed. He whispered half sarcastically, “This is my nightmare.” Taylor is too modest to ever ask for anything like this, but as you can tell by the smile in this picture, he was won over and very appreciative of everyone’s support.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

I’m not very good at estimating, so I’ll safely guess somewhere between 16 people and 137 billion people showed up to smile, wave, and cheer for Taylor. I’ve never been more proud of my tight-knit community as I was when the parade route crossed the bridge coming into our quaint and beautiful historic downtown, seeing it packed full of people screaming and cheering.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Seeing Taylor walk up to his house for the first time was pretty magical. There was this sense of “everything is going to be ok” that flowed through me. To see things resume-as-was was relieving. We sat around for a couple hours laughing, joking around and hanging out like old times. Taylor didn’t need to verbally express himself–his smile said it all: it was good to be home. Taylor even cut his friend Jason’s much overgrown beard. Jason had been growing his beard since January, waiting to cut it until Taylor got home. Needless to say, it was an amusing event! Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

That evening us guys spent the night regaling each other with laughter filled tales of high school stupidity around a bon fire for Mike’s bachelor party. Stories about Mike, Taylor and everyone else could have kept us there all night, but we called it a night at a reasonable time.  We would reconvene on Saturday for our traditional Saturday noon burrito at Pablo’s and then met up at Mike and Hanna’s wedding later that afternoon.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

It was a wonderful change of pace to enjoy Mike and Hanna’s beautiful wedding from behind a drum set instead of behind a camera for the first time all summer. Although it had been years since I had played drums, I wiped the dust and rust off and three of us got together and played music during their ceremony. It was fitting to play drums in front of this group of friends again as we spent many nights back in the day at local music shows. I used to play drums in a local hardcore band known as “Safie.” For those of you into mediocre hardcore music played by high school students in 2004, I urge you to check out all of Safie’s two albums at your local burnt CD warehouse.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

I go to a lot of weddings (27 this year alone) and I genuinely enjoy them all, but as far as fun weddings go, I think this one took the cake. To have all our friends in one place celebrating the love of two wonderful people was exactly what I think everyone was craving.  Earlier this summer Taylor was set to be in his friend Shane Cross’ wedding. Knowing Taylor would be deployed during that time, Shane made Taylor an honorary groomsman. Even though Taylor and Danielle were at that wedding in spirit (and watched a live stream of the wedding online), I think it was comforting for everyone to see him physically attend a wedding.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

^^This picture represents a lot more than the sum of its pixels to me. This picture brings me back to May 4th, 2012. The day after Taylor was injured. I met with Neal Price (the one who’s tie appears to like his shoulder more than his chest) for dinner at my favorite sit-down Mexican restaurant downtown Cedar Falls: Los Cabos. I couldn’t hold it together when I first saw Neal; I broke down and cried standing there in the lobby. Neal was very well composed and reminded me everything was going to be ok. We spent the remainder of dinner on the patio of Los Cabos doing our best to imagine what Taylor was going through at that moment. Neal helped keep me be positive, but I’ll admit, I was a mess. That night, I remember imagining very vividly what Taylor’s quality of life would look like in 6 months, a year, 5 years, etc etc.  I could paint a better and better picture with each passing time frame, but there is no way I could have EVER in a million years imagined this image of Taylor standing tall, laughing and living life fully.

This is Taylor less than FOUR MONTHS after his life was impossibly saved by the marvels of modern science, incredibly brave souls, and by nothing short of a long list of miracles.  Ask any professional who deals with traumatic injury and amputees, people simply don’t get to this point this quickly. Most amputees don’t stand within the first three months, nor do they even consider walking in 6 months. So to see a man dancing, gracefully, with out stutter for hours in less than four months, screams of Taylor’s great power, strength and determination. Not all credit is his own though, as he will attest he would not be moving this quickly if it wasn’t for Danielle. Taylor tearfully expressed in an emotional speech at Walter Reed while receiving a Bronze Star with Valor, the most beautifully sad words I’ve ever heard: “If I had hands, I’d take this Bronze Star and pin it on Danielle. It’s been so hard and she’s been here the whole time.”

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

The rest of the weekend Taylor and Danielle enjoyed time with their families and friends. Monday night was Taylor and Danielle’s last night in town before they returned to Walter Reed to continue Taylor’s rehabilitation. A few of us ate dinner downtown and then went out to the Morris house for a celebratory, low rent, redneck fireworks show.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor and Danielle walking downtown Cedar Falls, which was decorated for Taylor’s homecoming. The marque at the Oster Regent Theatre says it all, “Taylor Morris, Hero, Welcome home”.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

I think our fireworks were just the right amount of reckless to be nostalgic, which made for some high tension entertainment. I could tell no one wanted to call it a night, but we eventually said our goodbyes and well wishes. I thought to myself that night what things I could expect of Taylor when he comes home again in October. I quickly gave up knowing whatever futile attempt to dream up where Taylor would be in a month would be greatly overshadowed by what he’ll actually accomplish.

Going out of order, I’m going to take you back to Taylor and Danielle dancing. I think you need to see a video of this man; see his movements, see his joy, see his strength, see his love in motion.

Now grab someone you love and slow dance with them, as Danielle will tell you, you may never know when the next time you’ll be able to do so with your loved one.

Read the follow up to this story HERE.

To keep up to date with Taylor’s progress, make a donation, or buy a Taylor Morris T-Shirt; please visit www.taylormorris.org

To see more pictures from Mike and Hanna’s wedding, please visit photographer Austin Day’s album of their day.

A HUGE thank you to all the Waterloo and Cedar Falls policemen, the Black Hawk County Sheriffs Department, the Cedar Falls and Waterloo fire fighters, Amvets, Freedom Riders and all others who helped make the parade go so incredibly smoothly!!! It wouldn’t have been possible with out all your help and hard work!

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77 thoughts on “Did you see my friend Taylor come home?

  1. Most of the schools in the area dismissed early for the heat, but CF did not – specifically so the kids would not be bussed home before Taylor arrived. It was well worth it!

  2. I urge all my family and facebook friends to watch this and get familiar with Taylor and his amazing journey. Another beautiful photo essay…The photos speak for themselves, but the words coming from the heart of his "brother" are just as special. Taylor is an amazing man and I have been privileged to be allowed into his life, to share his journey and to pray for his healing to our Great Physician. I am thankful each day to watch those prayers being answered. Taylor has given so much for me and I thank him from the bottom of my heart. The amazing love of his family and friends has also been inspiration to Taylor, no doubt. God bless you all!

  3. Danielle and Taylor, you two are a very inspirational and amazing couple. May God bless you in every way. Thank you Taylor for your sacrifice and service for us. Thank you Danielle for being the strong and loving woman that stands by Taylor's side. I pray for your complete healing and undying and abundant love to continue to grow ever stronger each and every day. God bless you both and keep you close in His arms.

  4. What an unbelievable event. Everyone deserves a great round of applause for how well it went. I know it was meaningful for everyone there, especially Danielle and Taylor.

  5. No words…. I am truly touched…. Taylor will never know how many lives he has affected in such a wonderful and profound way….. bill

  6. When life throws you a curve ball, hit that sucker out of the park! Everyone involved in this labor of love did just that. What beautiful moments, pictures, and videos. Thank you Tim for sharing this incredible journey with us. Hugs from Arlington, TX.

  7. One of the most beautiful photo essays I have ever seen.The love you have for Taylor shines through your images and in your words.Thank you for sharing this-can't wait to see the next installment!!

  8. Danielle and Taylor, First….Danielle, Thank you from the bottom of my heart (and I suspect I speak for many) for being there and not turning your back. It is so easy to walk away from a hard situation, youve stood behind and supported Taylor from the start. May God continue to provide you strength and courage through the days and weeks ahead. Taylor, God Bless you! You have given so much! I am so proud of you for your courage and strength and for your will to live! May God Bless you and Danielle!

    1. OMG How do you know Taylor? I watched this and cried like a baby. What a sweet man and woman and what a hero for us all. When you look at the world and the hate that is spreading against us, it is amazing to know that men like Taylor are still willing to step up to the plate and give it all. God bless you Taylor and Danielle…..and thank you Taylor from a grateful woman.

  9. Taylor and Danielle, your love for life and each other is soooo beautiful and inspiring….may it help to bring all of the troops home safely to loved ones deepening commitment to give our best to each other, accomplishing great things loving so fully! Thank you for livingloving with hearts open so wide!

  10. Taylor and Danielle, your love for life and each other is soooo beautiful and inspiring….may it help to bring all of the troops home safely to loved ones deepening commitment to give our best to each other, accomplishing great things loving so fully! Thank you for livingloving with hearts open so wide!

  11. Taylor thank you for your service . I'm at a loss of words. My oldest grandson just signed up for he Army. I wsh you and Danielle a lifetime of happiness . God bless and keep you both.

  12. Taylor thank you for your service . I'm at a loss of words. My oldest grandson just signed up for he Army. I wsh you and Danielle a lifetime of happiness . God bless and keep you both.

  13. Thank you so much for your valorous service Taylor! I salute your determination and fortitude, and Danielle's dedication and inspiration. God be with you both, always. Capt., USMC, ret'd.

  14. What a truly great love story. It goes without saying what an awesome guy that you are Taylor. God bless you for your service and your sacrifice. And to you Danielle..I don't think I've ever heard of a more dedicated, loving, awe-inspiring person such as yourself. You both make me proud to be a resident of the same state that you call home! You also have been blessed to have such a loving and caring friend such as Tim Dodd, what a great person he must be. I pray for all the best for you all.

  15. It sure is nice to see someone who survived be able to the things he needs to do for himself and others. Hope he has a safe and wonderful life with his girlfriend and that the family is still there to support him in the future. And at least he can laugh and enjoy life.

  16. This is such a beautiful and inspiring story! God bless Taylor and Danielle and their wonderful bond of love for each other. Also, the blessing of friendship and love that you all have for each other! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  17. My son-in-law, Matt Wheeler, was an EOD tech and was wounded in Afghanistan. I have gone with him to the Center For The Intrepid at the San Antonio Military Medical Center (formerly Brooke Army Medical Center). It is filled with young heroes getting treatment…a truly amazing place staffed by angels. God bless Taylor and Danielle and all who have served and are serving now. May God put His protective hand on each of them.

  18. Wow words can't express the feelings captured in your blog and photos. What an amazing couple and what great family and friends. Thanks for sharing and thank you Taylor for your sacrafices for our freedom.

  19. What an inspirational feature you have presented for us…I can not think of anybody I know that would go thru what Taylor has and have a smile…You must also think of how much Danielle loves Taylor to stay with him and prod Taylor to continue his progress..Truely, my heart and eyes cry for them both. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  20. These photos are so awesome! They depict so much emotion! I am truly humbled by the sacrifices these men and women make on our behalf on a daily basis. Thank you so much Taylor for your sacrifice and thanks you, Tim, for sharing their story via your photographs. I look forward to seeing their wedding photographs done by you in the future! God Bless you all!

  21. Taylor You are a hero, Danielle you are an angel. Your story in Iowa has brought this Arizona girl to her knees thanking God that we have the freedom that we do because Men and Women Like Taylor are putting their lifes on the line for our freedom. You are a true inspiration to anyone that has suffered a catastrophe such as this. I'm hoping YOUR WRITE A BOOK about your journey, I am sure that I will be standing in a very long line to buy it. Blessings of Love, joy and peace to the two of you! You are a beautiful couple! :)

  22. Todd thank you so much for a touching love story. Taylor and Danielle what inspiration you are to everyone. I wish you two nothing but the best and very much happiness. This story is really a very good eye opener to everyone.

  23. True love, real love: it can move mountains. These two make it look so easy but it's only because of who they are and how much they cherish each oother. Any other woman would have run screaming in the other direction. Danielle loves her man…end of story.

  24. I see a lot of courage and love in these photos and accompanying writings. We are seeing the cost of keeping our freedoms alive and well. We owe so much toTtaylor and his injured and deceased brothers, and to all the Danielles who wait, shed tears, show great love, are always supportive, and who willingly share a life with the tragedies of war. God Bless each and every one of them.

  25. Danielle and Taylor, you both are simply the courageous people I have to know. Taylor you are such an inspiration to all the people out there and how to cherish life and live it to the fullest. Danielle you simply signify what true love means. God bless you both. from deep of my heart, I wish you both a colorful life with lots of adventurous journeys with your family, friends and with each other.

  26. This is quite possibly the most amazing story I have ever read! I am totally speechless and that NEVER happens. God Bless you Taylor and Danielle and may all your dreams come true!

  27. What an incredible and inspiring story! I'm am still crying. Thank you so much for sharing your story and serving our Country!

  28. Your beautiful documentation and pictures and story have reached to the depth of my soul and bottom of my heart. It took my breath away and tears streamed down my face. What an amazing man, a true hero, with a remarkably, loving and dedicated women! What a beautiful display of love and devotion from her, from his family and his friends. Thank You for sharing this story….May God Bless You All and Hold You Close Forever!

  29. thank you for sharing the amazing story of taylor and danielle and to YOU… being a verrry good to them to support and care really its amazing very inspiring on how to keep up… being a Physical Therapist I know its hard to be in a rehab but I'm very thankful that he didn't loose hope. I cried when I saw the photos I can feel and see what's the real meaning of Unconditional Love…. GOD BLESS

  30. Danielle thank you for what you do, what you did…your love, your committment, your passion. Taylor, soldier stay strong you have thousands of brothers and sisters who are and with you. Thanks to you both.

  31. This is just so inspiring! I smiled and cried reading this it's just amazing. God bless you, your amazing family and friends! ?

  32. Thank you Taylor for your love of your country by your huge sacrifice. And, thank you Danielle for being an inspiration to Taylor. Without you, I don't think Taylor would be this far along in his recovery. Thank you both!

  33. Taylor, Thank you for your service. These pictures of you and Danielle and your family and friends are beautiful and so touching. Thank you both for sharing this and God bless you both always. <3

  34. Thank you for continuing to share this inspiring story. This couple is so amazing, and reminds us that we really can do anything we want. I have seen bits and pieces of the stories including the Unstoppable video, but this is the first time I have read through the story from the start. Sitting on my couch grinning and crying at the same time. We could all learn a lot from Taylor and Danielle.

  35. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading
    correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

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