Sgt. Victor J. Ayala
On Mother’s Day 2013, the mothers of many service members did not get to see their sons or daughters who are on deployments far from home.
Fortunately, in the case of Marcelyn Berlo, this mother was being flown to Colorado Springs, Colo., where her son, Staff Sgt. Nathan Robbins, is competing in the 2013 Warrior Games.
As Robbins represents Team Army in the games, Berlo, along with many other spectators, will witness the culmination of not only one soldier’s personal resilience and perseverance, but also the love and support between mother and son.
From Robbins’ injury in Afghanistan to his rehabilitation and eventual involvement in this year’s Warrior Games, Robbins and his mother have been constant sources of love and support for one another.
The story of Robbins’ journey to the Warrior Games began Oct. 27, 2011.
During a route clearance mission in Afghanistan, the young San Francisco native and his combat engineer’s vehicle were struck by an improvised explosive device (IED).
The blast resulted in a lower back injury, knee injury and traumatic brain injury. He was rushed to a forward operating base and treated.
Despite the pain and discomfort, Robbins returned to duty after a brief period of recovery.
"It was in the first 60 days of the 11-month deployment. I had all the typical symptoms of a traumatic brain injury: headaches, dizziness, balance issues, and lots of pain in my back," said Robbins.
Adding, "But I didn’t want to leave my guys. There were a lot of first-time deployed [soldiers] in the platoon. I wanted to help teach them to be the best they could be on a deployment. I felt I could push through."
Determined not to let his family worry about him, Robbins even called his mother the next day and acted as though nothing had happened. It was also his birthday.
"Nate did not tell me he suffered through two IED blasts until he was back in the States for a few weeks," recalls Berlo.
She added, "He didn’t want me to worry. We spoke on the phone nearly every week while he was deployed, and he always had a positive attitude.
"This story is not that I, as his mom, provided support to Nathan during his deployments and now during his recovery. It’s really the other way around. Nate supported me by doing what he could do to reduce my worry level."
Having pushed through nine months of a combat tour with these injuries, Robbins had plenty of healing to do when he arrived at the Warrior Transition Unit on Fort Bliss, Texas.
While participating in therapy, Robbins got involved in training clinics and adaptive sports camps.
In August 2012, Robbins became especially active in competitive marksmanship. That same year he qualified to represent the Army in the joint-service Warrior Games competition. All the while, his mother and family kept in close contact, supporting him as he progressed.
Between the family support, the treatment from the Warrior Transition Command and participating in adaptive sports, Robbins is optimistic about his recovery.
"I’m much better than I was a year ago," Robbins said. "It’s been critical for me to find something to strive for beyond my injury."