Commissary honors wounded hero, Family
September 14, 2011
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 15, 2011) -- Commissary staff gathered Sept. 6 to welcome home a wounded Marine, former commissary employee, and son of a current commissary worker after his months spent recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Lance Cpl. Stephen Ayhens lost both his legs June 21 after a pressure plate exploded during combat operations in Afghanistan, injuring him and two others. The Family stopped by the commissary on the way to attend the basic training graduation of his younger brother later in the week.
Though the staff was welcoming home Stephen, the staff was eager to honor his Family for their years of service to the Fort Rucker community.
Walter Wilkerson, commissary head bagger, has known the Ayhens Family for more than 20 years and considers them Family. Stephen's mother, Shanta; sister, Lizzie; and brother, Bobby; have all worked for the commissary throughout the years. Wilkerson considers the Ayhens Family a primary example of the "above the best" attitude.
He said that Stephen would often join him for lunch and talk about his plans to become a Marine.
"He always talked about going into the service. He always said he wanted to be on the front line. He is just a super young man," he said.
Many of the staff members were eager to acknowledge that his mother, Shanta, was the primary reason that Stephen has been so positive. The staff considers Shanta's loyalty to Family and Fort Rucker a great contribution to the post.
"She considers this job something she can do for servicemembers," said Tina Wilson, commissary management specialist.
Wilson explained that by doing her job with an open heart and a smile, Shanta has become a well-known face for commissary shoppers, who have noticed her absence during Stephen's recovery.
"She's a motivated lady and a concerned mother. She loves everybody," said Wilkerson.
Stephen and his mother will return to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after their visit home, where Stephen will continue to heal.