Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Robert Walters, right, combat photographer, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, takes a photograph while patrolling with Lance Cpl. Limuel Richards, a team leader with the battalion, Nov. 27, 2012. Walters broke his elbow a year and a half before he joined the Marine Corps but has not let it hinder him perform his duties as a combat photographer.

Photo by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo

Rare break forces Raleigh Marine to face new obstacles

18 Dec 2012 | Cpl. Timothy Lenzo 1st Marine Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Afghanistan – Before one Marine started his career in the Marine Corps he was faced with a broken elbow, two surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy. He watched as in an instant his dreams of earning the title United States Marine and deploying to Afghanistan were put in jeopardy.

For Lance Cpl. Robert Walters, combat photographer, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, just getting to recruit training was his first obstacle to overcome.

Walters broke his elbow during a training competition with recruiters. The smaller bones beneath his elbow came forward, and the momentum made them impact on the larger bone above the elbow.

“When there is a common elbow break, the smaller, weaker bones usually break, and the big one above the elbow stays in tact because it’s a stronger bone,” said Walters, from Raleigh, N.C. “My break was a weird accident because my larger bone shattered and the smaller bones took all the impact”

Walters rushed to the emergency room where he was told he would require surgery. Doctors were concerned that after the extensive break he would not pass the medical requirements for the Marine Corps. They suggested looking at colleges while they looked for a doctor to perform the surgery.

“At that point I was determined to prove the doubters wrong, since becoming a Marine was what I wanted to do,” said Walters.

Walters’ surgery lasted more than seven hours, and when he woke, he was informed he had six screws in his elbow. The screws varied in size from three to five inches.

“Once they got in they realized it was more extensive, and the damage was a lot worse,” said Walters. “They repaired it to the best of their ability, and from there I started physical therapy.”

A year and a half after he first broke his elbow, Walters was back at the recruiting station, working out and getting in shape for recruit training. He enlisted with a medical waiver and graduated on time from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., during November 2010.

“I was determined I wasn’t going to fail or let my elbow get in my way,” said Walters. “It’s what the Marine Corps is about, overcoming challenges and obstacles.”

Walters is currently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was always his goal to deploy and he refused to let his surgeries hinder him.

“I wanted to deploy because to me personally, that’s a big part of military service,” said Walters. “I’m glad I could go off and protect my country.”

He works out daily with his fellow Marines as he continues to strengthen his surgically repaired elbow.

“I’ve never doubted Walters’ ability to do his job,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin Steffeney, machine gunner, Personal Security Detachment, 3rd Bn., 9th Marines. “I trust him when he goes on patrols.”

Walters impressed his peers with his work ethic and attitude despite having six screws in his arm.

“He never uses it as an excuse,” said Steffeney, from Lillington, N.C. “Honestly, working with that much damage put things into perspective. He’s strong, and he doesn’t let anything hold him back.”

Walters will continue to support the Marines within the battalion’s area of operation for the remainder of his deployment. He cannot let his elbow hinder him. His job requires him at times to patrol and work with the infantry units. For Walters, it is just another obstacle to overcome.

After two surgeries, countless hours of physical therapy and hard work, Walters earn the title United States Marine. Now he is in Afghanistan, another challenge that he is ready to overcome.

1st Marine Division