More than six months after he was critically wounded while serving combat duty in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Brubaker is coming home to Bakersfield for the Christmas holidays.
The 25-year-old, who ultimately lost both legs following the explosion of a roadside bomb last June, may not know it, but he and his family are expected to receive quite a welcome-home upon their arrival at Meadows Field airport Sunday morning.
Organizers on Facebook are asking anyone wishing to attend the homecoming to show up at around 10 a.m. for the expected 11 a.m. arrival of Joshua, who will be accompanied by his parents, Bill and Mary Brubaker, and Jason, one of Joshua's brothers.
"He's doing very well," the elder Brubaker said of his son. "Especially compared to where he was."
Indeed, there were times in the early days and weeks following the powerful bomb blast that Joshua's very survival was not certain.
Mrs. Brubaker has spent virtually the entirety of the past six months at Joshua's side at Walter Reed hospital, friends said.
Once Cpl. Brubaker's 30-day convalescence leave is over, he will return to Walter Reed hospital near Washington, D.C., for continued healing and rehabilitation in preparation for being fitted with prosthetic legs, his father said.
Meanwhile back home, the Wounded Heroes Fund of Bakersfield has been busy coordinating volunteer work to make the Brubaker family home wheelchair-ready.
The nonprofit organization has gone above and beyond to assist the family in any way possible, Bill Brubaker said. Their help has been invaluable.
On Friday, the family was in Texas to attend Jason's graduation from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. They will fly home early Sunday.
Joshua doesn't know, his dad said, about arrangements for the homecoming. And while the family is grateful for the outpouring of support, and happy about the planned reception, he said he wasn't sure how Joshua will react.
Mr. Brubaker suggested that care and respect for the family's privacy would be greatly appreciated.
It's likely, Mr. Brubaker said, that the family would not share public remarks at the reception.
"We appreciate all the support from the people in Bakersfield," said Mr. Brubaker.
But in the larger scheme of things, it's about more than one war veteran returning home.
"I just want to emphasize that this is not only about my son," he said. It's also in recognition of all veterans who have sacrificed so much in service to their country.