The journey for Anchorage firefighter Ben Schultz has come full circle after a devastating training accident that nearly took his life last June. The firefighter returned to Anchorage on Thursday to a cheering crowd of friends and family.

"Wonderful," said Schultz at the airport just after stepping off a plane. 

Schultz fell nearly 100 feet straight down a ladder. He ended up in a coma for two months with broken bones and a traumatic brain injury, among other severe injuries. He woke up in a Denver hospital not knowing where he was or what happened. But some call his recovery miraculous. He made big strides in Denver and was then transferred to a post-hospital rehabilitation center in Omaha, Nebraska that specializes in spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. Schultz was discharged from that facility on Thursday and flew straight home.

"After being in a wheelchair, a scooter, crutches, to a cane, to being able to walk is awesome," he said.

Schultz hugged his mother Joan at the airport, with his father Jeff looking on.

"It's a happy day. Very exciting. Very good to see him so engaged and having so many people supporting him. It's just wonderful...It's a huge blessing. I love it," said Joan Schultz.

Anchorage firefighters escorted Schultz out of the airport to a waiting firetruck parked outside. The same truck he fell from.

"I don't have any reservations about it," said Schultz. 

Firefighters then drove him to his post at Station 5. From there they drove him to Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria. Ben says he has been craving pizza from there for months.

Schultz says expects to return to light duty with AFD soon.

Contact reporter Joe Vigil by email.

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