December 22, 2013
(Photo: Doug Kapustin for USA TODAY)The best gifts for Army Sgt. Joseph Grabianowski this Christmas aren't tied up with ribbons and bows.
Independence in a new home he's made for himself this holiday season can't be gift-wrapped. Transcendence over wounds that turned his body into a medical battlefield doesn't fit under a tree.
Much of Joe has been cut away.
This quiet, contemplative soldier carries the distinction of being one of the worst surviving U.S. combat casualties since 9/11. His stirring comeback, in the mind of his family and medical team, is little short of miraculous.
"Joe, for me, was the most challenging case I had in a decade of war," says Navy Cmdr. Jonathan Forsberg, a surgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
As Joe acclimates to a new apartment and life outside the hospital, his family counts their Christmas blessings.
Dennis Grabianowski says he panicked briefly over the idea of his son living alone.
"But then," the dad says, "I thought, you know what? Because it is the holiday season, the Christmas season and what that is all about for me, it seemed like it was a very positive sign."
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