1) After having surgery on his arm earlier in the day, Justin Gaertner discusses his elbow pain with occupational therapist Kristi Repp at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
2) Dried blood from his injury remains on Justin's hand weeks after he was hit, as Occupational therapist Joan Margulies assists in making a cast at Bethesda Naval Hospital. The cast was for the underside of his arm, to provide stability and comfort. A large portion of his left forearm was blown off from the IED.
3) Jill Dalla Betta walks near her son, Justin Gaertner, as he wheels his prosthetic legs through the Military Advanced Training Center at Walter Reed Medical Center. Justin trained there Monday through Friday, 40 hours a week. The workouts consisted of repetitive motion, weights and treadmills. Julie Castles, Justin’s physical therapist, said he is one of her most motivated patients, “almost to a fault. He’ll keep working when he’s hurting.”
4) Justin holds his head for a moment after a morning workout at the MATC at Walter Reed Medical Center. "I'm never really gonna get used to the pain," he said. "I can overcome it because I'm a Marine. But it's always gonna be there."
5) Justin waits on the landing field for his unit's plane as they return from Afghanistan. ''I'm scared they're gonna tip me over they're gonna be so happy to see me,'' he said.
6) Marines gather around Justin Gaertner just after his unit returned home at March Air Reserve Base.
7) Larry Dalla Betta, 12, left, watches as his brother, Justin Gaertner, and fellow wounded Marine Tyler Southern swing at a playground near the Malone House at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., in June 2011. "You always hear stories when you're in Afghanistan. You always hear about guys in other units you know, 'Oh this guys just lost his legs.' You think this dude, he's done, he'll never be able to walk again," Justin said. "He's wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. Then you get to Bethesda and you have people like Tyler Southern coming in the room. It just totally turns everything around." Justin said Tyler paid him a visit while he was still in the ICU, and it helped him realize his life was not over.
8) Larry Dalla Betta, 12, his little sister Nicole Dalla Betta, 6, and their mom Jill Dalla Betta, watch TV as Justin looks on his iPad in his room at the Malone House at Walter Reed Medical Center.
9) Justin gets a hug from his aunt Cheri McPherson as he arrives at Tampa International Airport on May 14, 2011. "I'm really excited," she said. "I have not seen him. He's come a long way." It was Justin's first visit home since he'd lost his legs to an IED in Afghanistan in November. After two weeks he would return to Walter Reed Medical Center to continue therapy. Justin and his family and friends were picked up by a limo, which to them to a party in nearby Trinity, Florida.
10) Justin swims with his sister Nicole, 6, top, step dad Larry, right, and little brother Larry, bottom, at their home in Trinity after his homecoming. Justin said on the top of his list when he came home, was to go swimming with his little sister.
11) Nicole Dalla Betta, 6, sprawls out on her brother Justin's wheelchair at their home in Trinity, Fla., during Justin's first visit home since he was injured. "Nicole likes to push me around the house in my wheelchair," he said. "And she tries to help as much as possible."
12) Cody McCasland, 9, of Colleyville, Texas, walks the 1 mile fun run with Cpl. Justin Gaertner during Winter's family beach fest on May 21, 2011. Cody McCasland, became a double-amputee after being born without shin bones and can run well with his prosthetic legs. Walking a mile was the longest Justin had gone up until this point. "He’s 9 years old he’s been walking like this forever," Justin said. "Even tho he’s younger, I’m still looking up to him because he’s been walking way way longer than me. I’ve been walking 4 months he’s been walking 9 years so I’m looking up to him to see what i gotta do to push thru the pain. He was pretty much an inspiration to me."
13) Jesseca Willis carries Richeala Stevenson as she tries to protect her rear end from Justin Gaertner's forehand as they check out his new room at the barracks for wounded military members at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center campus. Todd Love and Josh Bouchard crowd in at the doorway. "When you get hit, unless you're already married you don't think you're gonna have a relationship again. You don't think you're gonna meet girls," Justin said. "I've met more girls since I've gotten hit than I did before I got hit."
14) Justin Gaertner and Tyler Southern dance to Ludacris' "How Low" as Hurricane Irene passes over the area at the new barracks at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in August 2011. Justin had just moved in the week before and bought himself DJ equipment and a number of new appliances and decorations. "After I got hit, I decided, I was like, 'Man, I want to be a DJ,'" he said. "I love music, I love mixing stuff together. I love making my own beats."
15) Marine recruits file past Cpl. Justin Gaertner at the Parris Island Museum in September 2011. Justin made a trip to Parris Island with a group of New York firefighters who delivered a piece of the World Trade towers for the museum. He hadn't been here since 2007, when he was a recruit straight out of high school. Justin was excited to be back at Parris Island but his emotions were a jumble. "It was kinda weird because it used to be me over four years ago," he said of seeing the recruits. "And it was also weird rolling by them, having them say 'Good afternoon sir' to me. That was a little un-comforting because we all put on the same uniform every day. We wore the same boots."
16) New York firefighters help Justin Gaertner sit on the yellow footprints at Parris Island, S.C., in September 2011. When recruits arrive at Parris Island for boot camp, they jump off a bus and line up in a formation on these footprints. It's the beginning of their journey. Justin made a trip to Parris Island with a group of New York Firefighters who delivered a piece of the World Trade towers for their museum. THe hadn't been here since 2007, when he was a recruit straight out of high school. Justin was excited to be back at Parris Island but his emotions were jumbled. "Every Marine who has been a Marine has stood on those footprints. It felt a lot different because four years ago I was there and I wasn't even a marine yet. I was still a recruit. I was becoming a marine, becoming a man," he said.