Supporters holding large American flags lined either side of the Porter County Municipal Airport entrance Friday to celebrate Sgt. 1st Class John Masson's arrival.

The Lake Station native's wife wheeled him slowly through the cheering crowd.

Masson lost both legs and his left arm Oct. 16 after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. The 39-year-old served four years in the U.S. Army and 11 years in the National Guard, where he is a special operations forces medic with a Ranger tab.

He and his wife, Dustina, live in North Carolina, where he is stationed. The couple have three children ages 15, 8 and 6.

"I'd go over and do it again for all these people," Masson said, gesturing toward the crowd of well-wishers. "This is what we fight for, such beautiful love."

Masson and his family flew in Friday to attend a benefit being held in his honor from 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday at American Legion Post 100, 1899 Central Ave., Lake Station.

The benefit will feature live entertainment, a silent auction, raffle and live auction, organizers said. The live auction is scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m. The cost of admission is a $10 donation.

More than 70 people -- many of whom Masson had never met -- braved the brutal cold to welcome him home. Some wiped away tears as Masson hugged family members from his wheelchair.

Members of the Indiana Patriot Guard, American Legion and American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association also paid tribute to Masson.

Staff Sgt. Jason Reed, a member of the U.S. Army National Guard, said he doesn't know Masson but was moved by his story.

"I thought I needed to show my respect and be here for his homecoming," the Schererville resident said.

Larry "Harley" Hawkins, with the U.S. Army National Guard and American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association, is also a stranger to Masson but offered his support.

"We wanted to let him know we got his back when he comes home," Hawkins said.

Several children held handwritten signs welcoming Masson home and offering thanks. One teenager held a sign saying, "Freedom isn't free. Thank you, John."

Masson said he was overwhelmed by the support.

He has chronicled his fight to survive his injuries on his website, http://www.johnmasson.com.

Masson said Friday that he doesn't want to jeopardize his team's mission by offering too much information about what happened. But he said other soldiers had walked over the IED and that dogs hadn't noticed it.

He said he remembers blackness after the blast.

Masson credits a medic with saving his life by stopping the bleeding from his legs and left arm. Despite several setbacks during his recovery, Masson remains determined to walk again.

"I will get up and walk," he said. "I hope there is a videotape when I do so I can show the enemy, look, you didn't do anything to this guy."

Masson said he also plans to play softball again.

But, for now, the Lake Station native continues to heal and said he is happy to be alive.

Masson's brother-in-law, Ian Paris, said Masson is upbeat and the kind of person who never fails. He said Masson's injuries haven't changed his personality.

"I don't think this will let him fail," Paris said. "He's like a diesel engine, always chugging forward."

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