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A Veteran’s Story of Courage, Combat + Recovery (ep. 410)

Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch

Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch joins John O’Leary on the Live Inspired Podcast to share his story of courage combat and recovery.

One of my favorite groups to partner with each year is FOCUS Marines Foundation. FOCUS does an amazing job providing coping skills, relationship guidance, goal creation and career advancement to wounded veterans struggling with physical ailments, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and various other challenges.

Among the remarkable servants I’ve met through this organization is retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch. Wounded in action, Nick was struck in the head by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), resulting in numerous shrapnel wounds to the head and neck which left him legally blind and partially deaf in his right ear.

In honor of Veteran’s Day, Nick joins us to share his inspirational story of courage, combat and recovery.

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  • Nick Popaditch earned numerous military awards including a Silver Star and Purple Heart.
  • “If you don’t quit on us, we will never quit on you.”
  • The power of inertia: The greatest difficulty always arises in the beginning.
  • As a drill sergeant, Nick learned that everything was trained in the antithesis. Courage was trained by fear, honor by unfair treatment and commitment by failing.
  • April 9, 2003: An AP photographer captures a striking image seen around the world of Nick smoking a victory cigar in his tank with the haunting statue of Saddam Hussein hovering in the background, immortalizing him forever as “The Cigar Marine.”
  • April 6, 2004: During the battle for Fallujah, Nick suffers grievous head wounds that leave him legally blind and partially deaf.
  • Nick and his wife April would sign every letter during his multiple deployments with Romans 1:11: For I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
  • Learn more about FOCUS Marines Foundation here.
  • Get a copy of Nick Popaditch’s book Once a Marine here.

If you enjoyed this episode, Hear from award-winning actor Gary Sinise. As one of America’s favorite, heart-led leaders Gary shares lessons on gratitude, service, and how his role in Forrest Gump as Lt. Dan led him to celebrate America’s defenders, veterans, and first responders. Listen to Gary Sinise on ep. 128.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. It Doesn't Take a Hero by General Norman Schwarzkopf.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Be positively motivated just because.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. My drill instructor hat called a Campaign Cover.
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? 
    A. Avigdor Kahalani, an Israeli battalion commander, who saved the entire country of Israel in the Valley of Tears.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? 
    A. My father told me to treat people with respect and hold them accountable.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? 
    A. I wouldn't change a thing. Every mistake made me who I am now.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? 
    A. I'd like it to say, "the world was a better place because I was here."