After spending the last two months in a hospital, a six-year-old boy injured in the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was released on Thursday. Ryland Ward was shot five times during the Nov. 5th shooting. His injuries have required multiple surgeries.
Ryland was one of the dozens of churchgoers shot after a gunman opened fire. The shooting spree left 26 people dead, including his stepmother, Joann Lookingbird Ward, and two sisters, Brooke Bryanne Ward, five, and Emily Garcia, seven. Twenty others were also injured.
Volunteer firefighter Rusty Duncan was one of the first to arrive and rescued the little boy. Duncan was checking for people’s pulses when “Ryland’s hand reached out from under his stepmom and grabbed my pant leg. I rolled her over and grabbed him and started running outside with him.”
Duncan grew a soft spot for the little boy and began to visit him in the hospital, promising a ride for the six-year-old on the fire truck once he was healthy enough to head back home. When the time came, Ryland was “ready to get in the truck right away,” Duncan said.
Ryland enjoyed the ride asking for the siren to be louder, to go faster, and honk more. Like most kids, he appeared to be enjoying the ride on the fire truck.
“He’s a character,” Duncan said. “This little boy has the best fighting spirit I’ve ever seen out of anybody in my entire life. He’s kept me going this whole time. Even when I was giving up … just thinking about him and being around him makes me smile.”
Although he’s well enough to leave the hospital, Ryland still has more recuperation to do. “His arm’s messed up where he was shot. His lower intestine, his bladder — it just goes on and on,” his grandmother Sandra Ward told NBC News.
The boy’s grandmother said the child had more than earned the ride. “He deserves it if any kid does,” she said.