RANCHO CUCAMONGA (CBSLA.com) — Sgt. Allen Kirkland is a decorated soldier, just home on leave and getting ready for his third deployment.
His family and friends --- and a local businessman -- on Sunday pitched in to give him a homecoming he will not soon forget.
Kirkland said, "I haven't seen everybody in almost five years."
Despite the time away from loved ones, he told CBS2's Art Barron that he wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary upon returning home. He was expecting a regular picnic.
Kirkland -- his friends call him A.J. -- was surprised today by a big party in Rancho Cucamonga. The party was complete with food, lots of hugs and lots of appreciation.
Kirkland said, "To come out here and see everybody, it's the best. This is what keeps us going." He's completed two tours of duty in Iraq and he proudly displays his Bronze Star
"He's a worthy man. He loves his family, he loves his country. That's the only reason I came out, to support this young man," said State Assemblyman Mike Morrell.
To help show that support his family thought they would repaint A.J.'s beloved pickup truck -- a 1976 Chevrolet Bonanza.
The truck has been in the family since 1976 -- owned by his grandfather. But the owner of Inland Body and Paint Center in Fontana didn't settle for a mere repaint.
Frank Montes, owner of the store and a former Marine, went all out. A gift refurbish to the tune of $20,000, new windows, new upholstery included.
A year ago, the pickup looked completely different, it was rusty and dented. Family derisively called it "the green booger."
"When I saw what it looks like now, it was jaw-dropping," says Kirkland. The pickup is now a snazzy silver, unrecognizable from its former state.
The restoration took nine months to complete.
"It's the least we could do for someone who is fighting for our freedoms," said Montes.
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