H  ope springs eternal in the Hanes household in East Manchester Township.

These last nine months, it was either that or give up on life altogether.

And they're clearly not quitters.

That's what I was thinking about last week, when U.S. Army Cpl. Matthew Hanes returned to his parents' home for the first time since he was seriously wounded on June 23, 2012, while on patrol in Afghanistan.

As a result of his injuries -- a gunshot wound in his shoulder and two shattered vertebrae -- he is now paralyzed from the waist down and has only limited use of his upper body.

When he left York County in late June 2010, two weeks after graduation from Northeastern High School, for basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was a fully functional young man, able to walk and run, able to drive, able to do just about anything he wanted to do.

He completed basic, then went to airborne school and advanced individual training before being sent to Fort Bragg, N.C., to attend infantry school.

When the Army tested him, his father, Lee Hanes, said, "Matt scored something like 89 percent. He could have done just about anything he wanted to do in the Army. He chose the infantry."

When Matt returned home two years and nine months later, he was confined to a wheelchair. And, short some sort of medical miracle, he'll probably be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

That is the reality of Matt Hanes' existence -- today, tomorrow and forever.

His return to York County was well documented -- more than 100 motorcyclists were part of a procession of police cars, motorcycles and emergency vehicles that escorted Hanes, 21, from BWI Airport to his front door.

People lined the streets, cheered, clapped, waved signs, shouted encouragement and welcomed him home like the young hero he is.

It was heartwarming to see York countians make the extra effort. That doesn't always happen when our sons and daughters come home from war. This time, because Matt was a wounded warrior, the York community responded with gusto.

After he was shot and later stabilized in Afghanistan, Matt was shipped back to America and spent weeks in critical care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Last July, he was sent to the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, Fla., which specializes in rehabilitation from spinal cord injuries.

While he was in Florida, his family, friends, local businesses and members of the community worked to convert the family home into one that would be wheelchair accessible, including the conversion of a garage into a first-floor apartment where Matt could live independently.

And then he came home.

Matt says he's doing well. He's adapting. He's learning and relearning those things he needs to know to be as independent as possible. How to hold a fork and spoon, for example. How to feed himself. How to bathe himself. Dealing with personal hygiene. How to brush his teeth and comb his hair. How to dress himself. How to get himself into bed, then out of bed and back into his wheelchair.

"Just like everyone else," Matt said, "I've got to make adjustments for what life has thrown at me. But I think I'm doing pretty good."

He's doing better than that, his father, Lee, said last week. "He's got a smile on his face most of the time."

Given the circumstances, that's saying a lot.

"He'll be fine, I think," Lee said. "Has it been life-changing for Matt? Absolutely. Has it been life-changing for our family? Absolutely.

"But Matt's in a situation now where he's got to realize what he can't do and focus on what he can do. Despite his injuries, there are so many things he can still do," Lee Hanes said.

For example, Lee said, "There's a 2007 Mustang sitting out in the garage. It belongs to Matt. We didn't get rid of it because one of his goals is to drive it again. I think he can do it. He wants to go to school to study business management. I think he can do that, too."

If he does, it'll be with a stiff upper lip and lots of old-fashioned courage.

There are certain times in life when we try to walk in someone else's shoes and find it's darned near impossible. And this is one of those times for me.

I'm a father. I have a son. I can't imagine what life might be like in our home under similar circumstances. The adjustments would be brutal. I get teary-eyed just thinking of it.

At 21 years of age, Matt Hanes won't have an easy day to look forward to for the rest of his life. That's a fact.

It's the price he paid for serving his (our) country during a time of war.

As sacrifices go, they hardly get more heart-breaking than this one.

Thank you, Matt. And welcome home.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.