United States

Todd Nicely. A Soldier’s Heart

The enduring life of a quadruple amputee veteran

March 26th 2010. Cpl. Todd Nicely, 26, was leading a patrol in Lakari, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, with 12 Marines of the 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines when his life changed forever. He and his squad were walking in staggered formation, and they were at the foot of a bridge when he stepped on a device consisting of 40 pounds of home-made explosives. There was a small clicking sound, and then an enormous blast broke the silence, knocking over the whole patrol. Cpl. Nicely was thrown in the air in a cloud of dust and debris, and when he landed, near the river bank, he was still conscious. He cried out in pain, twice, and he immediately understood how seriously wounded he was: much of his right arm was gone, just like his left hand and his right leg, while his left leg was barely attached. A friend remembers that shrapnel was lodged in Todd’s jaw, and that it was jutting out of his left cheek. He also had an abdominal wound, which meant that part of his bowel was protruding. Still Todd never thought he would die. He did not want to die: he wanted to go back home to his wife.
His comrades in arms were the first to rush to his help. The helicopter arrived six minutes later and Todd was taken to the military hospital. Later he was flown back to the United States, to the Walter Reed Medical Center Army in Bethesda, Maryland.

When Todd woke up, his first thoughts were for his fellow comrades: “Was anyone else hurt?”
He later began his long journey of rehabilitation. In a year-and-a-half, Cpl. Nicely had to learn to walk again, this time by using carbon fiber artificial limbs, to shave, with his new artificial hands, to eat, using a knife to cut the meat. He received the Silver Star, the Medal of Valor and the Purple Heart, but at the same time he had to learn to do everything all over again, relying on his mechanical arms, which don’t react to muscular stimulus.
Todd received a lot of help from Joshua Chamberlain Society, which will pay his bills for the rest of his life, and from the Stephen Siller’s Tunnels to Tower Foundation. This organization, with the help of the Gary Sinise Foundation (Gary Sinise is the actor who played Lt. Dan Taylor, the solidier who loses his legs in the movie Forrest Gump), built Todd a new home in Lake Ozark, Missouri.
Todd shares this with his beloved dog, Xerxes, a bulldog, just like the mascot of his battalion. The house has plenty of smart technology, including an elevator, automated closets and ramps.

In February 2014, Todd separated from his wife and now it is his mother Julie who looks after him. And yet, thanks to his inner strength and his smart house, Todd is self-sufficient in almost everything: cooking, driving his car, taking out the garbage, lighting a cigarette.

The events of September 11th 2001 changed his life, triggering his decision to join the Marine Corps. “Put me in the infantry”, he demanded before being assigned, but March 26th 2010 was to be the second turning point in his life. Nevertheless, Cpl. Todd Nicely, a quad amputee, will always be a Marine. Even now, with no regrets. He still plays war videogames, his dog tags are close to hand, and his pick-up is military green.

At the beginning of June 2016, Todd Nicely tried to kill himself with his own gun in the bedroom of his house. He survived, and now, after a complex psychological rehabilitation, he has decided to study for a degree in economics in order to try and get his life back.