A lot has happened to Andrew Robinson since he was injured last June in a car-bomb explosion in Iraq.
The 24-year-old former North Hanover resident, who was partially paralyzed by a severe spinal cord injury, was promoted to staff sergeant and then retired from the Marines.
He and his wife, Sarah, are living in southern California near Camp Pendleton, where Robinson was stationed before he was deployed.
Robinson is spending time trying to get back to the routine he had before his injury. He has also been busy hosting visitors.
“We have a lot of people from New Jersey enjoying the fact that we’re in southern California,” he said in a telephone interview last week.
Robinson’s family still lives in North Hanover.
He was injured June 20, 2006, while serving his second tour of duty in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. After being treated at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and a Veterans Affairs hospital in Tampa, Fla., he was moved to a VA facility in San Diego in November to continue his Physical Therapy.
Robinson cannot use his legs and has limited use of his arms, but he hasn’t let that slow him down.
He and his wife found a handicapped accessible apartment and purchased a small SUV that was modified to fit his wheelchair.
“I’m the designated driver,” his wife jokes.
Robinson said he plans to learn how to drive in cars equipped with hand pedals.
In the fall, the couple will watch Robinson’s friend, Greg Jones, compete in the Million Dollar Challenge, a seven-day, 600-mile bicycle race from San Francisco to San Diego, which raises money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Jones, a Marine currently serving in Kuwait, has raised more than $8,000 of the $10,000 required to participate.
Meanwhile, Robinson works out at the gym daily in hopes of someday competing in wheelchair racing.
“My goal is to do all the major marathons,” he said. “I want to do the Boston Marathon, New York Mar-athon, Los Angeles Mara-thon — all of them.”
The Robinsons will travel to New Jersey in September to visit with family and the many people that have raised money for the Sgt. Andrew Robinson Trust Fund, including the Northern Burlington High School Marching Band, which held a Rock-A-Thon on Friday.
Marching Band Director Chris Pinto said drum majors Patricia Walberg and Tyler Caloiaro, both seniors, wanted to do something for Robinson, who was a drum major before graduating in 2001.
The roughly 45 participants get sponsors and bring rocking chairs to the school and rock from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m.
Pinto said Robinson was extremely motivational while in high school, and still is.
“No matter what life throws at Andrew, he has always turned it into a positive for himself and for others,” Pinto said.
Robinson said he can’t believe how many people have raised money for him, particularly the students.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I can’t imagine how much they’re doing for me. I don’t remember doing any of this stuff for anybody when I was in school.”
Robinson said he plans to visit with those who participated in fundraisers.
“One of the main things we’re going to do is just spend time thanking all these people,” he said.
Eventually, Robinson would like to move back to the East Coast and start a family. He also said he might want to go college and back to Bethesda and work to improve the counseling services offered to wives and families of injured military personnel.
“A lot of times people need counseling and they don’t even know it. I kind of want to get involved in that when I get home,” he said.
By MELISSA HAYES
Burlington County Times