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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: A humble thank-you for Cpl. Nicholson

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Thursday is the big day. But there is no doubt that Mike Nicholson can’t wait for Friday, either, when the TV vans and the accompanying hoopla have gone away and he can finally — finally — settle in to a new life.

I know you remember Mike from two years ago when he was better known as Marine Cpl. Michael Nicholson and he came home to a hero’s welcome with a motorcade from Tampa International Airport, through town and down Bayshore Boulevard, everywhere seeing his hometown out in the streets on a rainy day honoring their hometown hero.

The motorcade pulled into Christ the King Catholic Church, where hundreds more were waiting to see someone who had grown up in their neighborhood and been a part of their lives. And then, except for the occasional fundraiser, it was over.

Not for Nicholson, of course. That summer at the age of 22 he had lost both legs, part of one arm and suffered brain injuries from a hidden explosive while on foot patrol in Afghanistan.

The last time I checked he had undergone about 25 surgeries.

On Thursday, thanks to the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and a stack of generous donors, Nicholson will move into a new “smart home” on Interbay Avenue in South Tampa. The house is something else, with push buttons everywhere, a host of appliances that ease down to wheelchair level, and other gadgets to help Nicholson navigate through a house designed for accessibility.

It’s a beautiful home inside and out, and the twin foundations are continuing to build homes with an open-ended waiting list that they expect to continue into the thousands.

None of this, of course, is enough. How could it ever be enough?

What you might hope for Nicholson is that we give him the keys to the house on Thursday and then get out of the way and let the guy get on with his life.

Nicholson is an extreme example of what can happen when we put Americans in harm’s way — that, unfortunately, is the cost of liberty.

But it is a graphic reminder that Nicholson is not alone, even if most of the time our wounded and recovering veterans are the forgotten heroes struggling to return to a life they left home to protect.

Remember that Thursday and Friday when you look at the pictures of Nicholson’s remarkable new home, that Nicholson and his fellow veterans will forever be changed, no matter our best efforts.

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