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'They're Hurting': Family Of Injured Folsom Marine Stresses Need For More Military Mental Health Support

FOLSOM (CBS13) - A single moment at the Folsom Rodeo was actually months in the making for Marine Corps Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews.

"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." said Sgt. Vargas-Andrews.

It's been a long road to recovery for the 24-year-old who was the most severely injured of 18 Marines caught in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport last August.

"I was in a giant cast with like a foam block around it. I just couldn't move. I mean I think that was a hard thing for me, just being stuck," said Sgt. Vargas-Andrews.

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

But while Tyler 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 the most because the ones with the physical are usually getting the treatment and the help," said Sgt. Vargas-Andrews' Mom, Tiffany.

The same blast that wounded Tyler also killed 13 fellow Marines, including Sgt. Nicole Gee from Roseville.  Fellow marines lost too soon, but clearly not forgotten.

"The support of the communities can be strong in the beginning but dies off pretty quickly. And those 13 families and the friends of those 13 they're never going to forget it. Hopefully the rest of the world won't either," said Sgt. Vargas-Andrews.

It's clear his community hasn't forgotten as the crowd erupted in cheers at the Folsom Rodeo when Sgt. Vargas-Andrews showed his hometown that he's still going strong.

"I'm missing half my organs and half my limbs and I hope I can show people that there's no reason not to go and be successful in their own life," said Sgt. Vargas-Andrews.

He says he's always dreamed of opening a gym and now he plans to open an adaptive gym as a way of giving back to his community. He's also planning to enter the Paralympics for weight-lifting and shooting.


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