Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to meet Todd and Crystal Nicely, two Marines, both American heroes. The Nicelys will “anchor” my book Courage in America. In the weeks ahead, I hope to identify nine other “characters with character” to join them in a cast of heroes. Your help in identifying other heroes from our military that might approach the caliber of Todd and Crystal is very much invited. As you will see from visiting Todd’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Todd-Nicely-Wounded-Warrior-Benefit/109240662434558), the Nicelys set a very high bar.
Todd was born in 1984 with little military history in his family with the exception of his grandfather’s service during the Korean War. Todd was raised in a happy family with five other siblings. He kicked around from job to job in the construction industry somewhat aimlessly before beginning his military career.
In 2007 Todd’s perspective was soon to change when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at a ripe age of 23. Todd told me the Marine Corps changed him as a person, giving him direction, teaching him the responsibility of “taking care of your guys” and “demonstrating the value of discipline.” Soon after boot camp and completion of the Marine Rifleman Course at Infantry school, Todd was given a military occupational specialty (MOS) as an rifleman.
Riflemen get to know the M16A2 service rifle, the M203 grenade launcher, and the squad automatic weapon. Riflemen are the primary scouts, assault troops, and close-combat forces available to the Marine Air Ground Task Force. They are the foundation of the Marine infantry organization, and, as such, are the nucleus of the fire team in the rifle squad, the scout team in the LAR squad, scout snipers in the infantry battalion, and reconnaissance or assault team in the reconnaissance units. Noncommissioned officers are assigned as fire team leaders, scout team leaders, rifle squad leaders, or rifle platoon guides.
In addition to using and servicing his M16A2 service rifle, the M203 grenade launcher and the squad automatic weapon where needed, Todd was groomed as a leader in his infantry battalion, following orders from the infantry Fire Team Leader. He also engaged targets with an M136 light anti-armor weapon and an M67 hand grenade and placed and recovered M18A1 Claymore mines.
Todd carefully described his first year as a “saw gunner,” the carrier of the squad’s automatic weapon (machine gun). He said that the more-senior guys taught him from within his squad. As the senior guys moved out of the squad, they offered their recommendations to the Lieutenant about who should step up to replace them in the line of responsibility. Corporal Nicley quickly found himself being chosen and given greater responsibility for his men, a responsibility he took seriously in combat with the Taliban and he continues to take it seriously today as he helps fellow wounded warriors with their rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Tomorrow I will post Todd’s description of his injury in combat, his views on what Courage in America should communicate, and his outlook for the future.