Groesbeck: Central Texas soldier imprisoned 12 years for war crimes returns home
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - 1st Sgt. John Hatley, a soldier who was imprisoned for 12 years for war crimes he swears he didn’t commit, returned to his home Saturday afternoon.
As the sirens blared with dozens of people cheering, Hatley was thrilled to see his hometown community again.
“It just touches your heart when you see everybody come out here,” he said.
There were two people in particular that he couldn’t wait any longer to hug, his parents.
“As soon as I saw my folks.... I was just overwhelmed,” he said.
“I love them because of their support and they’re the greatest people I know.”
The community displayed signs, flags and balloons to help welcome Hatley home.
He was even given an escort through town, where we’ll wishers came to show support for the former soldier who they say, after 12 years, never lost faith.
“I know had I been in his shoes and I had to be accused of a crime I didn’t commit and spend 12 years of my life in prison, I’d be a bitter man,” said Ricky Rand, Hatley’s brother-in-law.
“This man’s got the greatest attitude of any man I’ve met in my life.”
“I’m out here because I support him,” said Beth Hewitt.
“He’s finally coming home and we’re so proud of what he’s overcome.”
While the fight for Hatley’s full pardon continues, Hatley says he’s just happy to be surrounded by his family again.
“I’m just so happy that I’m finally able to just see all the people that’ve missed me,” he said.
“To be able to come home and see my parents again, have them meet my beautiful wife and spend the rest of my life here. I plan on dying here.”
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