Wounded Marine from Grover is welcomed home

Marine Lance Cpl. Cody Elliott, who was injured in Afghanistan in June, is greeted by the singing of the Marine Hymn on Thursday at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

Sitting in a wheelchair with a giant smile on his face, Marine Lance Cpl. Cody Elliott matched the excitement of those welcoming the wounded warrior back to the Central Coast.

The 21-year-old Grover Beach native was met at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport by family, friends and more than 100 veterans and others. The crowd cheered and sang as they waved American flags and banners.

Cody made sure he did not miss a single handshake.

"I really missed my family and friends and everybody and all this around me," Cody said, wheeling from hug to hug after getting off the plane. "It's been awhile since I've been able to make it back here."

Cody, who was on his second tour in Afghanistan, was severely injured on June 12 while his platoon was on patrol in the Helmand province. The Marines walked into a field of improvised explosive devices, and Cody sustained injuries that required doctors to amputate his leg.

Since then, Cody, who also lost a finger, has undergone surgeries and spent time recovering in Navy hospitals. Presently, he is receiving treatment at the San Diego Naval Medical Center.

For grandparents Debra and Gary Elliott, the sight of their grandson was "the best thing in the world."

"He's back and there cannot be a happier day," said Gary, adding Cody will be staying with them in the North County.

Debra said her grandson is not sure what he will do next because more treatments are ahead. But one thing she does know is how to feed her grandson, and that's what this weekend will be about.

"He's getting steak and his favorite, muddy buddies," she said. "Cody just loves them. They are made of all of his favorite things like chocolate, peanut butter, powdered sugar and Rice Krispies cereal."

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Cody, with his mother's permission, enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17. He spent time at Arroyo Grande High School and received his high school diploma from the Grizzly Youth Academy at Camp San Luis Obispo.

For others at the surprise party, such as Keaton Morell of the Grizzly Youth Academy, the day was one of honor. Uniformed academy members with black polished boots stood shoulder by shoulder and shouted "Rough Riders!" as Cody made his way through the airport. Then, they stood at attention as one of their own soldiered on.

"We are honoring our senior graduate, sir," Morell said. "It's a privilege to be here, sir. We are all brothers, sir."

Sammy Johnson said he did not even know Cody but came to the airport to welcome one of "our boys" home.'

"If you wanna see a hero, just look over there," said Johnson of the Five Cities. "That young man should be in the dictionary when it comes to the word ‘courage.'"

Central Coast group Welcome Home Troops helped organize the homecoming. Since forming in September 2010, the group has organized more than 60 homecomings in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

One thing Cody can't wait to indulge in?

His grandma's muddy buddies.

"I'm fresh out but not for long," Cody said with a big grin.

Individuals interested in donating to the Cody Elliott/Richey Family Fund should send checks to: P.O. Box 781, Grover Beach, CA 93483. Checks should be made out to the Cody Elliott/Richey Family Fund.

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