Marine Cpl. Joshua Himan Comes Home

A well-wisher welcomes home Cpl. Josh Hyman.

SATURDAY, APRIL 2 — The word went out via email, social networks, telephone calls, flyers, handouts, word of mouth, the media … Marine Cpl. Joshua Himan was coming home. Hundreds turned out to welcome him home. People lined the streets for miles along his route home, cheering as he went past. From I-95, west on Dale Blvd., then to Princedale Dr. and up Orangewood Dr. to the place he’s called home his entire life. American flags and Marine Corps flags were everywhere. And Josh was honestly surprised — overwhelmed, actually — that so many would turn out just to see him come home.

But this was no ordinary Marine. And this was no ordinary homecoming.

Marine Cpl. Joshua Himan was severely injured in September 2009 when the Humvee he was riding in struck an improvised explosive device (IED) in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. Cpl. Himan suffered injury to his spinal cord, and as a result has been paralyzed from the chest down.

He spent time at the VA Medical Center in Richmond, Bethesda Naval Hospital, and most recently at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He’s undergone intensive physical therapy as well as counseling to get him ready to go out on his own, and return to as much as a normal life as he can have after being so seriously wounded. And while at Walter Reed, Cpl. Himan said he still feels like his tour in Afghanistan hadn’t ended — that even though he’s back in the states, he’s not really home yet.

Well, that changed today when Cpl. Himan emerged from the van that brought him home, and he wheeled his wheel chair up his driveway, flanked on both sides by Marines, up a zigzagging wheel chair ramp and into a completely refurbished $100,000 home makeover that will allow him to be as self-sufficient as he can possibly be. The money was raised entirely through voluntary donations; workers also donated time, expertise and supplies to remake his house into a wheel chair-accessible home.

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The project went swiftly from being green-lighted to completion. “On Dec. 31, we said we’d do the project,” said Jacob Koch, president of the Northern Virginia Fuller Center for Housing, who oversaw the entire project. “We had no money. We said we’d do it. We took a leap of faith, knowing that there should be some people out here to help us. Well, on the spot, in that meeting, we made one or two phone calls, we got a couple of contractors immediately on board. And I went home and started making some calls and everyone started making calls and over the period of the next four weeks, we raised all the money we needed — in a month. That is crazy. And we broke ground on Feb. 3, and it took 58 days to do construction and we’re bringing him home today.”

Support for this makeover project has come not just from the local community, but from all over. “All over Northern Virginia, DC, Maryland,” Koch said. “Actually, we’ve had support from all over the country. We’ve had checks come in from California, Texas, you name it. All over the country. It’s actually captured the hearts and minds of a lot of people. Not just here in Northern Virginia.”

Koch oversaw the entire project — from fundraising to lining up contractors and subcontractors, getting the volunteers in place, ensuring construction materials were on site — everything. He admits it was a “daunting” task, but it was made easy by the outpouring of community support. “I had a wonderful team around me,” Koch said, “and I cannot thank them enough.”

It's pretty obvious Cpl. Himan is happy to be home.

And the impact this effort had on Cpl. Himan was clearly evident. As he wheeled himself up the driveway, past his fellow Marines that lined both sides, he was grinning broadly. And when he wheeled up the ramp and across the threshold of the made-over house and took it all in, he dissolved into tears, overwhelmed by what he saw and the recognition of what had taken place in his home. After going through his new living area, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and laundry, he wheeled back out where more family, friends and media had gathered. He was so overwhelmed, he could barely speak.

“I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough,” he said, trying unsuccessfully to choke back tears.

Some of the workers who worked on the house returned as invited guests to say hello to Cpl. Himan and his family. John Baskerville and William Miller, both with Woodbridge Plumbing, worked for two weeks on the house. And they didn’t know Cpl. Himan or the family “until now,” Miller said. “It’s amazing,” said Baskerville. “I’m very proud to be a part of this activity here. It’s for a great cause.”

You’ll find that theme running throughout this project — people who didn’t know Cpl. Himan or the family at all, pitching in to do whatever they could in honor of and in support of Cpl. Himan’s sacrifice.

Said Sgt. Cory Callahan, one of the Marines who stood in formation for hours along the driveway to Cpl. Himan’s house: “It’s a good experience, it’s a good cause. I’d rather be here today than anywhere else. I’ve never even met him.” Even the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the second-highest ranking officer in the Marine Corps, attended — showing up not only to welcome Cpl. Himan home, but to thank each and every Marine who came to honor their fellow Marine and welcome him home.

Recognizing that he was home, truly home at last here in Woodbridge, Cpl. Himan spoke emotionally about what it meant to really be back: “There’s a lot of guys that didn’t get to come home,” said Cpl. Himan, tears and emotion choking off his words. “So, I’m a lucky guy.”
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For more on the Fuller Center of Northern Virginia, please go to:
http://www.fullercenter.org/news/northernvirginia

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