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Otto: Heroes shouldn't need fundraisers

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Published:   |   Updated: May 5, 2013 at 12:42 PM

I'm going to be in Sun City Center this afternoon (2 p.m. at the Community Hall, 1910 S. Pebble Beach Blvd.) for a fundraiser to help Mike Nicholson. And to be completely honest, I have mixed feelings about the event.

Nicholson is a wounded warrior, and the Tampa Plant High grad is one of our own.

You have probably heard the story. It was almost two years ago on July 6, 2011, when then Marine Cpl. Mike Nicholson was on foot patrol in Afghanistan. The blast from an improvised explosive device caused him to lose both legs, his left arm and suffer brain injuries.

He would go on to the Navy Medical Center for long months of recovery and rehabilitation.

Months later, I drove down the Bayshore ahead of a motorcade that was bringing Nicholson home. On a rainy afternoon, the road was lined with people waving flags or standing there with banners welcoming him home. I went over to Christ the King Catholic Church, where hundreds more friends and family waited for Nicholson, accompanied by the mayor and a long motorcade, to arrive.

It was an emotional homecoming, unfortunately one that is all too common around the country after more than a decade of grinding combat.

Now Nicholson is home for good.

A few weeks ago, he even threw out the first ball at the Trop in a game between the Rays and the Yankees. It was the loudest ovation heard at that place in years.

The fundraiser this afternoon is being put on by the Sun City Center Leathernecks, who are going to provide a variety show and sell barbecue at the event. The Leathernecks are retired Marines and Navy corpsmen who served with Marine units.

This Friday, actor Gary Sinise also plans to help out. He played the fictional Lt. Dan from “Forrest Gump” who lost both legs in that film about the Vietnam era. Sinise will bring his real band to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for a concert to raise money for a new home being built with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Nicholson is one of 12 severely wounded veterans who will be receiving these specially designed and equipped homes.

These are all outstanding events put together by people who care and understand the world these veterans find themselves in. You wonder where these veterans would be if it were not for people such as Sinise and the Leathernecks.

And that's my question for today. Why is it that heroes such as Mike Nicholson have to depend on fundraisers for anything?

Why is it, in this country determined to be the world's policeman and put its finest young men and women at risk in places we have never heard of, that we can't also take the responsibility to see that we provide for all of their basic needs? Why can't we also go the extra mile to get them back in the everyday world and give them every tool and every advantage available to do that?

In my dream world I don't want to see any chauffer-driven general or politician going down the road until I see every severely wounded veteran getting the same treatment. This would also be the same world in which we get serious about getting homeless vets off the street and giving them the emotional and physical help they need and deserve.

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