A ‘Hero’s Welcome’ for vet who beat the odds and survived COVID-19

Nov 13, 2020, 7:10 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A Vietnam veteran who was once told he was going to die from COVID-19 makes an amazing recovery and has returned home.  His family surprised him with a small hero’s welcome, and dozens of people lined the streets to wish him well.

Family members of Craig “DanDan” Eby say he had no idea what was planned for him as he returned to his home after being hospitalized for two months.  He was totally surprised by the police and medic escort he would receive, and he had no clue people would place flags in their yards and hold signs to greet him for his hero’s welcome.

When he arrived in his driveway, Eby looked at the crowd and said, “Thank you so much, all of you.  I love you all from the bottom of my heart.”

A 'Hero's Welcome' for Vietnam vet who beat the odds and survived COVID-19

(Craig Eby, flanked by two of his daughters, thanking the crowd when he came home. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Eby had to be helped into his home, and his family says he lost about 50 pounds since he was admitted.  However, considering the fact that doctors told him he was going to die four weeks ago, his family is calling his recovery a miracle.  His wife, Sandy, says he’s a lot weaker than he used to be, and he’ll have health complications from now on.

“He’ll be on oxygen the rest of his life because his lungs are so damaged,” she says.  “He had to learn how to do everything.  He had to learn how to walk and… everything.”

She says her husband never thought he would ever see his house or the rest of his family, ever again.  However, he beat the odds, and that’s all she cares about.

“If it hadn’t been for all of the doctors and nurses and the fasting and prayers, he would have never made it,” Eby says.

This isn’t the first time Eby has cheated death.  While serving in Vietnam, shrapnel from a land mine went through him, which earned him the Purple Heart.  In 1996, his family says he was beaten, stabbed five times and left for dead.  His daughter, Lauren Cooper, says his blood pressure was non-existent when he arrived at the hospital that day.

Cooper says it was torture for the entire family who wasn’t allowed to see him in the hospital because of quarantine rules.  When Eby was transferred to Utah Valley Specialty Hospital, he was only allowed to have one family member come to see him, his wife.  Cooper believes that small amount of human interaction was what he needed to want to get better.

A 'Hero's Welcome' for Vietnam vet who beat the odds and survived COVID-19

(Family members make a display saying “Welcome Home DanDan” on Eby’s lawn. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Eby jokingly told his family he would like to have a parade when he was discharged.  Cooper says her father never got the hero’s welcome he expected when he came back from war.

“When he came home from Vietnam, he wasn’t welcomed home.  He didn’t get the ticker tape parade.  They didn’t get any of that,” Cooper says.  “They got booed and made to feel they did something wrong.”

However, family members decided to make his request a reality.  Cooper promoted it on a few different social media pages, and reached out to the city for a police escort.  She says the show of support from the community has been amazing.

“The Saratoga Springs Police Department and Fire Department were just [amazing, asking], ‘What can we do?’” she says.


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A ‘Hero’s Welcome’ for vet who beat the odds and survived COVID-19