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Injured Marine Corporal Michael Nicholson welcomed home by crowd at Tampa International Airport

11:59 PM, Feb 19, 2012   |    comments
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People crowd around the main terminal at Tampa International Airport to welcome home Cpl. Michael Nicholson, a 22-year-old U.S. Marine from Tampa.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Among the passengers, suitcases, and tickets at Tampa International Airport, a crowd full of flags and homemade signs and tears waited for a moment that was months in the making.

They crowded around the main terminal to welcome home Cpl. Michael Nicholson, a 22-year-old U.S. Marine from Tampa. Seven months ago in Afghanistan, he lost both legs and half of his left arm when a roadside bomb exploded.

Since then, he's been recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital. "He's been doing really well up there," said long-time friend Megan Jensen. "It's unbelievable. It's so inspiring."

YouTube videos and family friends will tell you that he's been determined to walk and has made amazing progress. On Sunday, he was set to come home.

"When he sees all of [these people], I think that's going to be my favorite memory," Jensen said. "Definitely."

Some of those gathered at TIA, like 8-year-old Dominic Castellano, attended church with Cpl. Nicholson's family and wanted to greet him after hearing what happened. Castellano said he wanted to tell Nicholson, "Thank you for serving."

Jensen was Nicholson's date to the Marine Corps Ball and she's been close to him for years. So, for her, this final wait wasn't easy. "We're kind of all freaking out, but we're really, really happy," she said.

Once Nicholson got off the flight and into the airport terminal full of applause, she wanted to tell him, "I love you and I'm so glad you're home."

She managed to weave her way through the crowd and into the front row just in time to share a kiss.

To get the latest updates on Cpl. Nicholson or to contribute to his fund, visit his Facebook page or his CaringBridge page.

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