Juedes sustained injuries while on patrol in a small town in southern Afghanistan on Jan. 25 when he was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.
The Marine, who was serving his first tour in Afghanistan, lost most of his right hand, with just the ring finger and pinky remaining. His arm was also broken and shrapnel tore through the femoral artery in his leg.
On Sunday afternoon, Juedes traveled through Cobb — escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders — to his home on Wilshire Drive in the Walker’s Ridge subdivision off Macland Road.
Almost every home was decorated with an American flag and yellow ribbons were tied to each mailbox.
This year, Juedes was awarded the Purple Heart, a United States military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving.
As the crowd began to cheer to the sounds of motorcycle engines approaching, the Hillgrove High School marching band began playing “God Bless America.”
Surrounded by a cheering crowd, Juedes said the welcome home was more than he could have expected and even asked his mom, “Why did you do all this?”
Following the explosion, Juedes was sent to Germany for a couple of days for medical treatment. He was then flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where the injured Marine spent his 21st birthday.
Karen Dunlap, Juedes’ mother, joined her son January 30 and stayed with him for six weeks.
“He has such a positive attitude,” Dunlap said.
During the time in Maryland, Juedes underwent surgeries to restore his hearing and to remove 12 inches of skin from his left leg to be fitted on his right arm.
Last month, Juedes, who is right-handed and has enough muscle left to open and close his hand, started the process for getting a prosthetic device to simulate the fingers he lost.
“It is a long process. They like to work out the kinks,” Dunlap said. “Even before this, I never thought they had that kind of technology.”
Dunlap said her son can do almost anything now with his left hand and is even practicing driving his stick-shift car.
“Nothing stops him,” Dunlap said.
After a month back in Marietta, Juedes will return to Walter Reed for more physical therapy.
Jackie Hughey, who lives around the corner from Karen Dunlap, raised her two daughters in Walker’s Ridge subdivision.
Her youngest daughter, Laura, used to play kickball and basketball outside in the neighborhood with Juedes as a child.
In March, Jackie Hughey started to help organize the homecoming to thank Juedes for his service.
“My God, he could have lost his life over there,” Hughey said.
Besides her connection to Juedes from the neighborhood, Laura Hughey also came Sunday to learn more about her friend’s new robotic device.
Laura Hughey just finished her first year in graduate school at Georgia Tech studying prosthetics and orthotics.
“It is sort of a glimpse into what I will be learning,” she said.
Even though Juedes was seriously injured, Dunlap said there are no negative feelings from his family towards the military.
Juedes’ father, Greg, also served in the Marine Corps and his grandfather is a retired Naval Officer.
“We love the Marine Corps,” Dunlap said. “He is a proud Marine. I am a proud Marine mom and a former wife.”
Jackie Hughey was born in England but moved to the United States 31 years ago and is now an American citizen.
“I am just horrified in England that they don’t fly the flag,” Jackie Hughey said about the lack of patriotism compared to American neighborhoods.
The return home was just in time for Memorial Day, which Juedes said he will spend remembering “brothers” he lost while serving.
“It is not about barbeque,” Juedes said about the reason for Memorial Day. “Just remember who and what the day is for.”