By Kellie Speed
When Cpl. Todd Nicely went to sleep on March 25, 2010, he never could have imagined what would happen to him the following fateful day. As Nicely was crossing a bridge leading his squad of infantry Marines back from a security patrol in Afghanistan, he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
On March 26, 2010, Nicely became a quadruple amputee.
“I knew when I stepped on the bomb that my legs were gone, but it still felt like I had my hands, but that was not the case,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine in a recent phone interview. “The doctors told me my recovery was going to take four years—one year for every limb. I told them I was not going to do that and spent a year and a half in rehab.”
What made him push so hard to overcome his devastating injuries? “I couldn’t give up, so what was I going to do?” he asked. “In 2016, I was at a point in my life though where I was tired of it. I was abusing alcohol heavily and feeling like I didn’t fit in society. I tried to kill myself by shooting myself in the chest. The bullet nicked my heart, and I am grateful that I lived through it. Suicide is not worth it. As bad as things are, they will get better.”
Nicely felt the call of duty to join the Marines after watching the blockbuster movie “Saving Private Ryan” when he was just 16 years old. “When I saw them storming the beaches of Normandy putting their lives on the line, I knew I wanted to serve our country, but I ended up in construction when I was 17,” he said. “I stayed in that for five years and then the economy went bad in 2007. I wanted to test myself and decided then to join the Marines.”
Thirteen years after his injuries, Nicely courageously admits he still encounters some bad days, but being given a second chance at life inspires him to make the most of every day. “It took me a long time to accept it,” he said. “I am not going to say every day is perfect. I participated in the FOCUS Marines program, which taught me a lot of life skills that I didn’t learn in the military. That has really helped me.”
Nicely is one of just five surviving quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I actually mentor at the program now,” he said. “It came to a point after I shot myself that I realized nothing else was working. The program is designed for any service member who is not coping well in life. I have learned now that what I do is inspirational for others.”
Today, he also receives a lending hand (or four) from a service dog that has changed his life for the better. “He has made things in my life a lot easier,” Nicely said. “There are a lot of times when I am not in my legs and when I am in a wheelchair and drop something, I can’t get it. He has relieved a lot of steps that are unnecessary and inconvenient, and he always brightens the mood.”