MORRISVILLE, N.C. – A peace activist who was shot in the face in the West Bank town of Jenin (search) -- allegedly by Israeli troops -- received a hero's welcome Saturday as he returned to the United States.
About 60 peace activists and friends cheered as Brian Avery, 25, met them after arriving at Raleigh-Durham International Airport from Israel.
Avery smiled, despite the wires and rubber bands clamping his jaw shut, as the crowd welcomed him home to his mother and father, Julie and Robert Avery of Chapel Hill.
"As long as there's this many people ready to support peace and justice in the world, we're in good hands," Avery told the crowd through clenched teeth. "I'm glad to be alive and that I'm going to keep meeting so many wonderful people."
Avery, a member of the Palestinian-backed International Solidarity Movement (search), was shot April 5 when he stepped outdoors with a friend to check gunfire during an evening curfew.
It was among three Israeli military incidents involving his group within a month.
Rachel Corrie (search), 23, of Olympia, Wash., was crushed to death March 16 as she tried to prevent a bulldozer from tearing down a home in Gaza.
Thomas Hurndall, 21, of Britain, was shot in the head April 11 as he helped children to safety. He remains unconscious.
While in Israel, Avery delivered food, accompanied injured people in ambulances and helped people cross checkpoints.
Avery will stay with his parents as he awaits further surgeries. He has undergone three reconstructive surgeries to rebuild the bridge of his nose and eye sockets and faces operations to rebuild his jawbone, implant new teeth and restore his features.