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SALT LAKE CITY – Two Mormon missionaries wounded in the Brussels airport bombing were in good spirits and expected to make a full recovery but will need time for their bodies and minds to heal, their parents and doctors said Thursday.
Mason Wells, 19, and Joseph "Dres" Empey, 20, suffered second-degree burns and other serious injuries when explosions ripped through the Brussels airport as they accompanied a French woman set to fly to the U.S. for her mission. Thirty-two people died there and in a blast at a subway station March 22.
Both men returned to their home state of Utah this week, seeing their siblings for the first time since the bombing. Their parents spoke alongside doctors at a news conference Thursday in Salt Lake City.
They said their sons are ready to get back to their normal lives and have positive outlooks on their futures. Empey described his condition as "fair to awesome" when hospital officials asked, mother Amber Empey said.
"They are young, healthy boys, thank goodness, and their bodies are healing fast," she said.
But no one is glossing over the severity of their injuries. Neither can finish his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Mason Wells' dream of serving in the military could be over.
There is no timetable for their release from the hospital, and both will need more procedures, and possibly surgeries, to recover, Dr. Giavonni Lewis said. The men have shrapnel in their bodies, and doctors are still determining the extent of some of their burns and injuries.
Dr. Stephen Morris, director of the University of Utah Burn Center, warned that it could take months or years for the men to deal with their physical ailments and the trauma of the attack.
"They've been involved in a big incident," said Wells' father, Chad Wells. "There is a lot that occurred, and they'll sift through that as time goes."
Both Wells men were a block away from the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 but were not hurt.
Another Utah missionary injured in the Brussels blast, Richard Norby, 66, is out of a medically induced coma in Belgium and more alert, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said. The Norby family says he is starting to talk a bit and regaining his sense of humor, Hawkins said.
A fourth missionary, Fanny Clain of France, also remains in Brussels. Clain, 20, was not seriously injured and was expected to be able to go on her mission in Cleveland.
The Wells and Empey families said they are beyond grateful their sons survived but are heartbroken for the families of those who died. The Empeys found out their son had survived when they got a call from him the day of the attacks.
Both families said they won't let the bombings change their view that more good than bad exists.
"To the parents of all the missionaries out in the world: Take courage, don't worry. We're not afraid," Chad Wells said.