GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - The City of Gautier will honor a hometown hero on Saturday. Anthony McDaniel is a young Marine who lost both legs and his left hand when an IED exploded in Afghanistan.
The city is honoring him with a celebration in Bacot Park.
McDaniel is a humble young man who will tell you he doesn't deserve such special recognition, but spend just a few minutes with him, and you'll see why he is more than worthy of such an honor.
"Aug. 31, will be my four year anniversary of my injury, you know. I'm still moving, still going, still progressing," said McDaniel, as he showed how he learned to use his prosthetic legs.
Perhaps more importantly, he's still smiling. The 26-year-old Marine could understandably be bitter about such severe injuries, but he prefers the positive approach.
"You want to be positive. You want to be happy. You want to know that the legacy that you leave, people remember. You know, this guy, a lot of things he'd been through, he was happy. He loved everybody," said McDaniel.
He finds personal drive and fulfillment in sports. Always has, but these days, the former Gautier High basketball player competes with other wheel chair athletes and Wounded Warriors.
"Sports is just another thing that really just keeps me going; something I can get my kids involved with. I can go out once they start playing and hopefully be their coach, you know, or something," said McDaniel.
Gautier is getting set to honor this hometown hero. The park where he played sports as a youth will host the special salute.
The mayor says it's not only about McDaniel's sacrifice on the battlefield. It's about his incredibly strong spirit.
"It's amazing. You get around him and you feel it. You want to be part of that. You want to be close to him, because he is an outstanding young man," said Mayor Gordon Gollott.
The Gautier American Legion began planning this celebration months ago.
"It's going to be a great event. We invite the public out here and come and honor this young man. This young man gave up two legs and an arm for his country. We're here to honor him, and this is his day," said American Legion Post 1992 Cmdr. Bill Whatley.
"It makes me happy just to even wake up. I'm blessed to wake up. I get to do it again today, you know? Whoever I may run into, whoever I may meet. I'm just excited. I meet new people," said the always smiling McDaniel.
The celebration in Bacot Park will be from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday.