A hero's welcome

16 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. R. J. Driver

A real-life hero got a once-in-a-lifetime surprise at Savannah International Airport Tuesday afternoon when he reached the foyer to find himself face-to-face with a brass quartet, his brothers-in-arms and most important, his wife and daughters.

Staff Sgt. Pablo Barrios, an intelligence Marine with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, returned home from an approximate year long deployment as an individual augment with an overwatch training brigade operating in Iraq.

Barrios suffered injuries when struck by a directional improvised explosive device while manning a machine gun turret in Basra, Iraq, Feb. 24. The explosion damaged his lungs, kidneys and both arms. After six weeks of surgery and rehabilitation at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Barrios finally headed home.

With a good grip on his daughter, Barrios expressed that he was eager to return home to his family, friends and fellow Marines. “Without their motivation and support, I don’t know how I would have made it through.”

Barrios’ wife received a phone call detailing her husband’s injuries, February 25. Upon his return stateside, Monique Barrios packed up their two daughters and rushed to her husband’s side.

Monique explained that although the news she received was less than favorable, it was better than receiving those infamous taps on the door and left her with a glimmer of hope.

While running her fingers through her hair, she expressed that after the initial shock, she began to think about what she could do to help her husband. The best help she could offer was to not leave his side.

The Barrios family spent all six weeks at Bethesda making sure Pablo had everything he needed, to ensure a speedy recovery.

“His motivation and drive to get better kept our family (together) with a positive attitude about our situation,” Monique said.

Although Pablo has returned home, he must undergo several rehabilitation sessions with occupational therapists in the Beaufort and Charleston area and follow up with corpsmen and doctors at Naval Hospital Beaufort.

“I’m more than excited to be home and spend time with my family,” explained Pablo.

Pablo expressed appreciation to those who reached out to him in his time of need.

In an interview with the Beaufort Gazette’s Patrick Donahue, Barrios said, “I’m very lucky to make it home, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and the Marine Corps. This is a brotherhood. I’ve been in the Marine Corps for 14 years, and when I was in the hospital, guys that I haven’t spoken to or thought about in five years somehow magically found a way to get a hold of me and tell me they were behind me. I’m just ready to get home to Beaufort and sleep in my own bed.”