After all the grief, Thursday was a time to give thanks for one tough kid, a Sutherland Springs victim, who took five bullets and didn’t quit.

Ryland Ward has spent two months in the hospital since the tragic shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. He celebrated a birthday while recovering. But his biggest party of the year was saved for when the 6-year-old finally left the hospital and returned home on Thursday.

The signs started sprouting at the Wilson County Line. And it wasn’t just locals who came to celebrate.

“I came from Canyon Lake to see young Mr. Ward arrive home,” Skip Cordes said.

“We’ve been doing prayers every day since day one that it happened,” Guadalupe Huerta said. “And the way he survived with all those shots, he’s got to be a special little boy.”

“He’s our hero,” Jeanne Rizzo said. “He survived a great ordeal and we’re proud of where he’s come from.”

Many got emotional at the sight of Ryland returning home on a firetruck.

“He’s been through more than most of us have been through in our whole lives,” Cordes said.

Battling a blustery wind, the man of the hour blew through town awash in a river of lifesavers. They came alive with pride and joy and the dreams of a small town in Texas where love always conquers hate.

“I was going to buy balloons at H-E-B but they donated them to me,” Janie Boren said. “I started crying. It’s wonderful to be in a small town and we love our children.”

The Ward family has requested privacy as they begin to build their new life. Ryland lost two of his three sisters and his stepmother in the massacre. The church promises to do whatever it takes to help the family persevere.