Marine who lost limbs in Afghan airport bombing returns home

Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 3:39 AM EDT
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FOLSOM, Calif. (KMAX/KOVR) - A Marine critically injured in a suicide bombing at Afghanistan’s Kabul airport received a hero’s welcome in his hometown after months spent recovering.

The crowd at the Folsom Rodeo over the July 4 weekend erupted in cheers for Marine Corps Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews. The 24-year-old was the most severely injured of 18 Marines caught in the airport bombing last August.

“It’s cool to see that there’s other people who care. There’s other patriotic Americans in the country. I think I probably got letters or phone calls from just about every state in the U.S.,” Vargas-Andrews said.

It’s been a long road to recovery, but the 24-year-old is back in his hometown after extensive medical care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

“I was in a giant cast with a foam block around it, and I just couldn’t move. I think that was a hard thing for me, just being stuck,” he said.

Vargas-Andrews lost his right arm and left leg. He’s had 43 surgeries to repair multiple organs, including a lacerated liver and a hole in his bladder from shrapnel.

But he hopes to show he’s still going strong.

“I’m missing half my organs and half my limbs, and I hope I can show people there’s no reason not to go be successful in their own life,” he said.

The same blast that wounded Vargas-Andrews killed 13 of his fellow Marines.

“Those 13 families and their friends, they’re never going to forget it. Hopefully the rest of the world won’t either,” he said.

While Vargas-Andrews heals his body, others have to heal their minds. His family is now pushing for more mental health support for military members.

“They’re hurting, and they carry it, often in silence, because they don’t have the physical injuries. And they’re the ones that are hurting, often the most, because the ones with physical are usually getting the treatment and the help,” said Vargas-Andrews’ mother, Tiffany.

Vargas-Andrews now plans to open an adaptive gym as a way of giving back to his community. He also plans to enter the Paralympics for weightlifting and shooting.

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