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Fertile, Minn., welcomes back a hero. Emotional video shows his reaction.

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We have all driven through them, maybe you live in one, a small town that would go above and beyond for someone they love and admire.

In Fertile, Minnesota, there's talk of the big celebration for Jon Hovde. He's a well-known Vietnam Veteran who just received a horrible cancer diagnosis, but he got a surprise from his town upon returning home from the Mayo Clinic.

On a crisp, cold night the Fertile-Beltrami Falcons flew past Fosston during its Oct. 23 football game.

But the crowd was light and for good reason.

“Just because of Jon, how can someone who has been through so much, be such a nice guy," Jackie Erickson said, as she lined up on the street.

Most of the town, with many coming from outside of Fertile were gathering on Main Street for Jon Hovde.

"Everybody loves him, that is why we are here," Jackie said.

"Jon is a hero, he served our country and he served it well," Josie Proulx, said.

It was like the 4th of July. There were American flags of all sizes, and hand painted signs.

"Everyone comes together when someone is in need or just to show love and support, it means a lot," Mary Benson, said.

Digital signs at the bank, school and gas station all welcomed Jon back to Fertile.

Hovde is a Vietnam veteran who lost an arm and leg during the war and left for dead, was on his way back from the Mayo Clinic after a brutal Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis.

Fertile was preparing to surprise him with an impressive homecoming party downtown, late at night. His sisters couldn't believe the crowds.

"When Jonny was hurt they rallied around us then, and look at this, it is incredible. There are people everywhere, it is awesome," Cathy Bolstad, his sister said.

"Gut-wrenching, to see all these people who love him and admire him, they are here from all over," Lana Christensen, his sister, said.

But no one in Fertile is surprised with this outpouring of support.

It was back in 1968 when buckets were put all over town to raise enough money to send Jonny's parents to California, where he was recovering in a military hospital after his injuries in Vietnam.

Jon's car was escorted into town, not just fire trucks and law enforcement from Fertile but from all over the region.

"They are welcoming their hero home," Jon's wife is overheard saying in the car as she drove down the main street.

There were lights everywhere, and the crowd typically in bed this time of night stepped out to thank Jonny, and welcome him home.

Jon was surprised and inspired.

"Thank you, love you," he said.

"They are saluting you dad. This is all for you," his daughter said.

"Gosh, this is so overwhelming, this is just incredible," his sister said.

The homecoming parade continued for blocks, as the cars neared the edge of town his sisters came to greet them.

This is small town celebration is all about heart and soul.

A man so loved people would show up and stand and wait in 30-degree weather to show it.

The lights continued two miles outside of town where that platoon of men and women not only escorted Jon through town one last time, they truly brought him home.

Family says Hospice will now help care for Jon in his final days.

Jon is a longtime motivational speaker and author.

If you would like to know more about Jon's life, and works, click on one of the links below.

http://jonhovde.com

https://www.amazon.com/Left-Dead-Second-after-Vietnam/dp/0816646244

Kevin Wallevand

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

(701) 241-5317
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