OVIEDO, Fla. – It was a red, white, and blue celebration for one of Oviedo's residents as he returned from New York City where he helped treat COVID-19 patients.
Dozens of people from Palm Valley Community waited for Tom Judd, a Navy reserve Lt. Commander, as he arrived home after being away for five weeks.
Friends and neighbors came together in golf carts decorated with stars, signs and colors that symbolized their patriotism for a welcome-home event Judd had no idea about.
“This was a total surprise. This was great,” said Judd, fighting back tears.
Judd has been in reserve for the past 22 years and on April 6, he was deployed to the Javits Center in New York, where the Army Corps of Engineers turned the center into a makeshift hospital.
Judd treated COVID-19 patients during their recovery phase.
"It was a very humbling experience. I was very proud to be there. I'd do it again if I have to," Judd said. "I didn't realize the impact that this virus had on the community until I actually went there."
Upon his return home, Judd got out of his car with his wife and both hopped onto one of the golf carts. The group then did a drive-by through several streets of his community, where they were led by a motorcade by officers from Seminole County’s Sherriff’s Office.
“Just truly a remarkable patriot, and the fact that not only does he serve his country on a daily basis, we couldn’t be more proud of him for that, you know. He takes on additional responsibility of serving his community as a registered nurse,” said Lou Tomeo, of SCSO.
Judd became a nurse in 2004 and works with Orlando’s VA in Lake Nona.
“He truly is a hometown hero,” said Bob Dallari, Seminole County commissioner. “He’s always a giving individual, but to give of yourself as so many people have done, to leave your family, to help other people in a time of need, that’s self-sacrifice.”
A sacrifice worthy of this special recognition organized by one of Judd’s neighbors, Kathy Knowles, who has known him and his wife for five years.
“They’re very generous, very, very generous (and) hardworking, and they always help my husband with projects around the house,” Knowles said.
The mayor of Oviedo, Megan Sladek, also presented Judd with a token of appreciation, an Oviedo key chain. Sladek jokingly said it was the closest they could do since they don’t have official keys to the city.
“I think a lot of people probably thought they might’ve been retired or close to it and to respond to that call to action to go right to the heart of things, (he’s) just amazing,” Sladek said.