Community Rallies Around Airman Injured in Afghanistan and His Pregnant Wife

A small town effort to help a wounded serviceman and his pregnant wife has spread throughout the country, bringing in more than $105,000 to help newlyweds Justin “JD” and Aubry Day.

“We can’t express how grateful we are for all the love surrounding us as we start this journey,” Aubry wrote to PEOPLE, in a joint statement with Justin’s parents, Melinda and Brian Day.

Justin, 22, is an Air Force combat controller, a special tactics operator who works under dangerous conditions in austere environments. Earlier this month, he was in Afghanistan, assigned to an Army Special Forces team. On July 10, the team went on a mission near the Pakistan border. There, Day stepped on a deadly improvised explosive device.

Thanks to quick-acting comrades, combat medics and field surgeons, Justin survived. But he sustained severe injuries. He lost one leg and part of a hand, and was seriously burned.

Back home in the U.S, Justin’s wife and parents soon answered the dreaded knock. The news was bittersweet.

“When you have a child deployed, you feel very close to the threat, waking up every morning with a pit in your stomach, fearing a phone call or a knock at the door,” said Justin’s father, Brian. “We are grateful our notification was to tell us our son would have some physical constraints in the future, and while that is painful and sad, it is also motivational and inspiring.”

The family prepared to meet the wounded airman to his new temporary quarters, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

In Justin’s childhood hometown of Medford, Oregon, an aunt and others rallied to raise $10,000 to help Aubry with non-covered expenses. They set up a modest GoFundMe campaign.

The first donor gave $50. Others followed, giving in increments from $5 to $1,000. The campaign was shared more than 9,000 times. People offered quilts, visits and prayers.

Less than two weeks later, donors from across the country contributed more than 10 times the goal.

The generosity has touched even GoFundMe.

“GoFundMe is proud to be a place where people come together to lend a hand to those they care most about,” said spokesperson Katherine Cichy. “It is incredible to see the groundswell of support for JD Day and his family during this difficult time.”

Shortly after reuniting with husband Justin, Aubry opened up about the couple’s love story.

“Justin and I met in Florida, where we both live,” Aubry said. “We have mutual friends and one night we were out and really just hit it off.”

On their first date, they hit off even more. “We actually went out to dinner and shut the restaurant down that night, we were just chatting and enjoying each other.”

Six months later, they got engaged. Shortly before Justin deployed to Afghanistan, they married.

“It’s been an awesome ride since then,” Aubry said.

Part of the most recent ride was a bedside visit to Justin from a storied four star general, Raymond “Tony” Thomas, who leads the entire U.S. Special Operations Command.

Bigger yet was when Aubry presented a cake to her husband, to reveal the sex of their new baby, who is due on Christmas.

“We are having a boy and still thinking of names,” Aubry said.

PEOPLE adds two suggestions into the hat: Noel and Nicholas. New baby Day is due on Christmas.

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