Posted at: 10/22/2013 10:57 PM
Updated at: 10/23/2013 7:19 AM
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- Nearly four years after a mass shooting at Fort Hood left 13 people dead and more than 30 wounded, one of those injured soldiers received special recognition at a ceremony in Rochester.
On Tuesday night, Staff Sergeant Patrick Zeigler was presented with the military's Meritorious Service Medal in honor of his time spent in the U.S. Army.
The medal is the non-combat equivalent of the Bronze Star, and is normally reserved for high ranking military personnel.
But for all the attention put on the award, the night was also SSgt. Zeigler’s retirement party, giving he and his family a chance to re-connect with friends, family, and the entire Rochester community.
“I’m so proud of Patrick and I have been waiting for this day for four years to celebrate kind of closing out this chapter of his life,” said Jessica Zeigler, Patrick’s wife. “There's really nobody I'd rather celebrate with than this community here in Rochester that supported us so much."
Jessica Zeigler is from Rochester, and as her husband spent time recovering at the Mayo Clinic, the community rallied to help their family put on the perfect wedding.
And the couple said that support has continued right through Tuesday night.
“I feel like sometimes I'm in Mr. Rogers neighborhood just going down the street waving and smiling to everybody,” SSgt. Zeigler said. “Everybody's just so friendly and Minnesota nice, it's just very cool to be here. I feel like a native now."
Patrick and Jessica said the party was just a small way to show their appreciation for all the support they've received over the past four years.
And now that his military service is officially over, the couple said they are ready to move forward.
“I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” SSgt. Zeigler said. “I just feel like it's a whole new life that's about to begin for me and my family."