His walk is not as steady. His every move is pained. Yet Lance Cpl. Robin Griffiths stands tall.
Ever since an enemy mortar attack struck his camp in Iraq, the proud Utah Marine hasn't been able to move like he used to: Scar upon scar mark his arms, chest and leg. His left arm barely moves. But for a moment Saturday, Griffiths forgot about the pain.
With his eager family waiting, Griffiths limped through the Salt Lake City International Airport Saturday morning. The Marine has endured months of rehabilitation at a burn unit in Texas and hasn't been back home since June 2004.
"It's really nice to finally be home," Griffiths said.
Griffiths was 10 days away from completing his second tour of duty in Iraq when the attack changed his life. It was Jan. 27, and Griffiths was sound asleep in a tent at the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Iskandariyah forward operating base.
A mortar landed 2 feet away from him, causing multiple injuries: a collapsed lung, his left elbow shattered and a burst artery in his left leg. Shrapnel cut his chest and stomach area. In total, Griffiths was burned over 35 percent of his body, from his toes to his armpit on the left side of his body.
The 22-year-old has been rehabilitating at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, since Feb. 1. He's endured skin grafts and major surgeries to fix his war wounds, but "he's still got a lot to go through," his mother, Connie Griffiths, said.
But for now, he'll enjoy his brief vacation from the hospital.
Griffiths is in town for 10 days with his wife, Tonia, and their son, 8-month-old Chase. The family flew into Salt Lake City Saturday morning.
Family and friends waited anxiously for Griffiths to arrive and paced back and forth from the escalators to the monitor that posts arrivals.
When Griffiths finally appeared at the top of the escalators, the crowd clapped and whistled while waving flags and signs that read, "Welcome home!" and "You're a hero!" Perfect strangers also welcomed the wounded Marine home.
Griffiths limped through the airport terminal, heavily relying upon his right leg, which was unharmed in the attack. Even hugs were hard for the wounded Marine, but he wanted them anyway.Comment on this story
Connie Griffiths said it is a miracle her son survived the mortar attack.
"We were just so blessed," Connie Griffiths said. "We all get teary eyed when we think of it."
Griffiths will spend a few days in St. George visiting his grandparents during his time home.
Once his visit is over, Griffiths faces another painful surgery. Doctors will remove bone from his right leg and place two inches into his left elbow, which was shattered in the mortar attack."You don't hear about the wounded the ones that fought and survived," Connie Griffiths said. "We can't forget about them."