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After renovations to house, Marine finally coming home

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 02:46 PM
TAMPA -

For the past several months, architect Richard Hartmann and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rob Barrow have spent every weekend organizing volunteers to help rebuild the home of a wounded Marine.

This weekend, though, there will be no hammering, no sawing at 3316 W. Barcelona St. in South Tampa.

Aside from last-minute details, the time will be spent welcoming home Cpl. Mike Nicholson, who lost three limbs in Afghanistan last summer.

"We are essentially done," said Hartmann on Wednesday as he was getting ready for the final two home inspections. "I am proud to live in Tampa with members of the community who came to support and rally behind this young Marine."

After months of surgery and rehab, Nicholson, 22, is scheduled to come back to the home where he grew up. He is on a monthlong leave.

Nicholson will return to Tampa on Sunday from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he is being treated. He and his mother, who flew to Bethesda on Thursday afternoon, are scheduled to arrive at 1:44 p.m. on US Airways Flight 1523 at Tampa International Airport, where he will receive a hero's welcome. That will be followed by a motorcade from the airport to a celebration at Christ the King Church, where his family worships.

The motorcade will be accompanied by 50 motorcycle riders from organizations that support service members.

Mary Nicholson said her family is grateful for the efforts on behalf of her son.

"As always we appreciate everyone's support and prayers," she said as she awaited the flight that would take her to see her son.

"Our family is very excited to bring Michael home, and the community is anxiously awaiting his homecoming," she said. "He is ready to come home."

At first it will be just for a visit, "but hopefully we can get him back to Tampa permanently," she said. "We have to see how his therapy goes."

Nicholson will come home to a house where his bedroom was rebuilt to accommodate his needs as a triple amputee under Americans With Disabilities Act standards. Hartmann and Barrow organized scores of volunteers who contributed money, material, food and sweat to rebuild the bedroom, add a deck, spruce up the property and landscape the yard.

"We had a number of what I call weekend warrior brigades, up to 25 volunteers at a time working," Hartmann said. "Talk about something hectic on a small South Tampa residential lot. That was a lot of people to direct. There was an incredible outpouring from Tampa."

There were so many donations of materials that the effort used only a fraction of a $50,000 grant from The Home Depot, Hartmann said.

"Our goal was to use as little of that as possible and save that money for another wounded warrior who may not have been as well connected and have a good support group such as Cpl. Nicholson," Hartmann said.

Facing years of arduous rehabilitation, Nicholson is the beneficiary of a fund set up by former Judge Cynthia Holloway and her husband, Todd Alley, a local lawyer, to help meet Nicholson's long-term needs.

The welcome home ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Christ the King Church pavilion, on Church Street near South Dale Mabry Highway and Henderson Boulevard. Parking is available in multiple lots.

Nicholson had one wish about his homecoming.

"He wanted to ride down Bayshore Boulevard," Hartmann said.

The motorcade will travel from Tampa International Airport to downtown, south on Ashley Drive, right on Brorein Street, left on Bayshore Boulevard, right on Bay to Bay Boulevard, right on Church Avenue and on to the pavilion at Christ the King.

People are encouraged to line the route and cheer him.


haltman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7629

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