'Hometown Hero' JD Day returns home following critical injury in Afghanistan
It was an emotional homecoming for "Hometown Hero" JD Day at the Rogue Valley Airport Thursday afternoon, after the critically wounded Cascade Christian graduate turned Combat Controller returned to the Rogue Valley for the first time since his injury.
Day was two-and-a-half months into his first deployment in Afghanistan on July 10th when he stepped on an IED during a mission.
The blast caused major damage to his hands, and required his right leg to be amputated above the knee.
"It took my right leg down to the tib-fib, blew the muscle and skin off," said JD.
After multiple surgeries and months of recovery, friends, family, former classmates, and even complete strangers gathered to welcome JD home as he and his wife, Aubry, made it through the gate.
"The sacrifice he and his family has made is something to be recognized," said Elaine Loyd, who doesn't know JD, brought children to the airport the pay their respects.
While JD's father spent time with him in the hospital during his recovery, it was the first time JD had seen much of his family since the Christmas prior.
That changed as he embraced his loved ones through a roar of applause.
"I didn't want to let him go!" said David Day, JD's grandfather and a veteran himself. "I just wanted to hang onto him, and just embrace him and tell him that i love him with all my heart."
Following the homecoming, motorcade of Medford and Central Point police cars escorted JD and Aubry to Don Jones Memorial Park.
There, the community celebrated all JD had overcome and all he's yet to do.
If you ask his family, they'll tell you the possibilities are limitless.
"I'm proud of his character and what he's been able to accomplish," said Becky Griffin, JD's aunt. She played a large role in organizing his homecoming.
"Just know that he's going to be okay. He's going to power through this," she added.
JD said the outpouring of community support he's experienced since his injury has helped him in every step of recovery.
A GoFundMe account created for him after the incident started with a $10,000 goal.
It's since raised over eleven times that amount.
"I keep using the word be-humbling being back here. So many people have put so much out there for me and my wife and family," said JD. "It's incredible. It's incredible."
The Purple Heart recipient will continue recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland.
After that, he plans on carrying out the remaining two years of his enlistment, part of which he hopes will be back overseas.
In the meantime, he said he's incredibly excited to be present for the birth of he and his wife's first child.
Aubry is due to give birth to a baby boy-- whom they plan on naming Warrick-- on Christmas Day.