Mike and Lori Lowe's family is once again complete.
Their sons, Lance Cpls. Joe and Jimmy Lowe, returned to Boise Thursday after a five-month odyssey that took the brothers from Iraq to Germany to Maryland to Seattle after Joe was paralyzed from the waist down in a bomb attack that injured two other Idaho Marines.
Wheeling himself through a color guard, Joe Lowe, 24, arrived at the Boise Airport to thunderous applause from the 100 or so well-wishers who came to greet him. Lowe said his injuries could have been much worse.
"I'm happy to be alive," he said.
Joe and Jimmy, both of Boise, are the Lowes' only children and were both serving in Iraq when Joe was injured. Lori Lowe said she's proud of her boys and grateful to have them back home. "When we put those boys on the plane (to Iraq), I mean, that's my family, that's my whole family," she said.
Joe Lowe's ordeal started May 8 when his company, Marine Corps Charlie Company, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, was returning from an early-morning battle near the Syrian border. Lowe and three others were in an M1A1 tank when an explosion tore through the vehicle. Lowe, the tank's gunner, had his spine nearly severed, while the tank's commander, Staff Sgt. Chad Brumpton, also of Boise, broke multiple bones and has endured numerous surgeries and skin grafts. Lance Cpl. Mitchell Ehlke of Star had his right leg below the knee amputated as a result of his injuries. The tank's driver, Lance Cpl. Fernando Lazalde of Driggs, walked away from the explosion without major injuries and continued to serve in Iraq.
Brumpton has returned to Boise, and Ehlke is still is rehabilitating at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Joe Lowe, who said he plans to go back to work for his father's holster-design company, said the injury has made him better appreciate what he has.
"This injury has opened my eyes. In a way, I'm thankful that I have the outlook this has given me," he said. "I will accomplish more in this chair than I ever would have on two legs." Soon after the attack, the Marines released Jimmy Lowe, 21, from Iraq to support his brother through his recovery. "(Joe) has been such a motivation for me to live a better life," Jimmy said.
Brumpton, who had not seen Lowe since the attack, was at the airport Thursday, himself in a wheelchair as he recovers from his injuries. He said the tank crew worked together for two years and that seeing Lowe was an "emotional" reunion. "We were already a tight crew," Brumpton said.
"I wouldn't want to work with anyone else."
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne , who was on hand when Ehlke and Brumpton returned, hugged Joe Lowe when he arrived Thursday.
"It's a very emotional feeling, and I think all of us are ready to have them back on Idaho's soil," he said.