DIAMOND, Ill. — A Diamond Marine who was critically injured in Afghanistan is now back in the United States and showing modest signs of improved health.
Joe Trippiedi, vice-president and co-founder of Operation: MOMS Cookies, who is speaking on behalf of the family, said 22-year-old Cpl. Joseph Singer is now being treated in Bethesda, Md. He was transferred from Germany on Friday, July 20.
"He's off the ventilator and he's off the feeding tube, they took him off yesterday," he said Tuesday morning. "It's going to be a long process, but he's doing better. He got to talk to his mom yesterday."
Singer, a 2008 Coal City High School graduate, was injured July 12 during a rocket-propelled grenade attack. He suffered broken ribs and legs, as well as leg and stomach wounds.
Trippiedi said he and a number of other people following the story have been happy to hear the news.
"We're ecstatic that he's improving," he said. "He's a strong young Marine, and he'll be fine. He'll get through this."
Joe's wife Debbie Trippiedi, president and co-founder of the organization, has been checking in regularly with Singer's mother, Jennifer Cherveny, who has been at Singer's side for the last week. She said Cherveny was able to briefly talk with her son for the first time Monday, an exciting moment.
"It's tremendous — each little baby step is tremendous," Debbie said
As Cherveny is with her son, a small army of locals from Diamond, Coal City and beyond have been drumming up support the family. Cherveny is a single mom with two additional children who remain at home in Diamond. Operation: MOMS Cookies set up the Joseph Singer Fund through Morris Community Credit Union last week to help her cover the bills while she is with her son. Additional groups and businesses are planning fundraisers.
Laurie Dunbar, office manager Morris Community Credit Union's Diamond branch, said she's seen each day people walk into the branch to donate and letters with checks roll in for the fund.
"I can't believe the response, it's overwhelming," she said, noting that donations aren't just from Diamond and Coal City. Some donations have come from cities like Joliet and New Lenox, from people who have never met Singer.
Dunbar can't reveal how much the fund has raised so far, just that it's been very active in recent days.
"It's quite a bit," she said.
Dunbar was touched by the response the fund has gotten so far.
"I can't believe that everyone in the community is coming together to do this for this family," she said. "It's wonderful — they need all the help they can get."
Debbie seconded the response as "overwhelming." From the prayers offered to the family to the efforts of locals to tie more than 400 yellow ribbons throughout Diamond and Coal City Saturday, she said the community has responded to the call for support.
As a member of a military family, she said the sight of the ribbons has been particularly moving.
"I've been back and forth just driving around town, and to see those yellow ribbons flying, it just brings tears to your eyes," she said.
She said a handful of people came from neighboring states to take part, too, which reflects well on the area.
"It speaks volumes for our community and getting support out for this young man," she said. "He is a hero."
While the support is strong now, Debbie said it will be needed as Singer continues through the healing process.
"Cpl. Joe and his family have a long, long road ahead," she said. "That's one thing we have to do, to remember them. We have to remember that they're going to need continued support once he gets home."