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Vietnam Veteran heads home after full COVID-19 recovery

Harril Bowen Jr. spent 40 days at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary and 24 days on a ventilator battling COVID-19.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — On Saturday, a Vietnam Veteran packed his bags and headed home after his long battle with COVID-19. 

"For us to be able to see him walk out of this facility, it's a great day," Dr. Gerry Jones, Chief Medical Officer for St. Vincent Infirmary, said. 

After 40 days of care and 24 days on a ventilator, Harril Bowen Jr., best known as "Bobby," finally got to head back home.

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Stacy Lemieux, ICU Nursing Supervisor at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary, was one of the many who took care of Bobby from the start of his battle to the end of his recovery. 

"It's been a very emotional day for us as we've celebrated this and it's a true celebration for all of us that have taken care of him," she said. 

The 63-year-old Vietnam Veteran was admitted to CHI St. Vincent Infirmary on March 29 and according to Lemieux, was the hospital's first critical coronavirus patient. 

"We were able to recognize symptoms early on and from those symptoms, we really helped develop our plan of care that we would do for these COVID-19 patients," she said. 

This patient in particular, who Jones said, left an ever-lasting impact on everyone he met. 

"They consider this gentleman a member of their family and so, they're happy as they can be for him to go home today," he said. 

A new member of the St. Vincent family who, Lemieux said, could be spotted from miles away inside the hospital's walls. 

"One thing about Bobby is you would never see him in our hallways, in his hospital bed, without his Vietnam Veteran hat on," she said. 

This piece of him that brought him a band of brothers with a bond unlike any other. 

"As soon as he could talk to us and communicate with us, that was the first thing he was asking about," Lemieux said. 

Bobby was curious how his friends were in his motorcycle club while he battled through the disease. 

Friends like Bill Waller, who he got to embrace at the finish line of his recovery. 

Waller described the moment as "relief."

"He would do anything to help anybody, so he's that type of person," he said. 

Waller, who has been by Bobby's side since 1975, was one of the only people he knew he would see on Saturday.

Instead, the survivor was greeted on the other side of the hospital's doors, with a line of heroes he calls his family.

"We wanted to do all we can to support him and his successful recovery of this awful disease here," Waller said. 

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As the engines roared towards the hospital's exit, a band of brothers escorted this veteran back home. 

Bobby lives in Jacksonville, but headed back to Cabot on Saturday to be with his family while he finishes up getting his strength back.