Knoxville Marine Returns Home

By: Jim Freeman
By: Jim Freeman

Knoxville (WVLT) -- Fellow Marines say he passed up a chance to get his national citizenship just so he could deploy with the Knoxville based 4th Combat Engineering Battalion.

Sergeant Jorge Zapata made his long awaited return home Tuesday night, nearly a year after a roadside bomb attack put him in the hospital.

"He's one of those guys who'll standout in a crowd, you’ll certainly hear him.” said Major Brian Griffing, of Delta Company.

Sergeant Zapata's homecoming took place at McGhee-Tyson Airport where friends and family members were waiting to meet him.

"To get Jorge back home to his family is a great feeling,” said USMC Corporal Michael Person.

"Just to see my family, my friends and the guys I deployed with, it's amazing,” Sgt. Zapata said.

They were up late and on hand just to see him home.

"I'd say he's probably the best natural Marine I’ve ever seen,” said Corporal Person.

"He is a great Marine,” said Major Griffing, “Great Marine, great Non-Commissioned Officer and very vocal."

Not to mention battle tested and tough, too.

"We were about 200-300 yards away,” Corporal Person said, “and we heard an explosion and over the radio, we heard that he had a broken leg."

That was last November, when the sergeant and Corporal Bradley Walker of White Pine were critically wounded after their Humvee ran over a roadside bomb.

"We think a lot about him all the time,” Sgt. Zapata said of Corporal Walker. “I mean, he took most of the blast and most of the injuries. I love him, I don't know what to say."

Corporal Person recalled the unit’s trip back to East Tennessee.

“We left all together,” he said, “and we came back home minus two."

Corporal Walker came back home earlier in the year.

The injuries he sustained cost him his legs.

Sgt. Zapata’s injuries were not as bad.

"Physically, I feel great,” he said, “of course, I won't be 100% like before, but I feel great."

The Sergeant wants to go to college in the future.

He said he is not sure which school just yet, but he's looking into a career in civil engineering or construction management.

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