Nick Popaditch (R)
Nick Popaditch was born on July 2, 1967 in East Chicago, Indiana and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of 18.
He would spend the next 3 years rotating between Okinawa, South Korea, mainland Japan, and Camp Pendleton California. During that time, Nick became a Tank Commander.
Nick’s unit was one of the first to deploy in defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
During Operation Desert Shield/Storm Sgt Popaditch served at the tip of the spear in Task Force Papa Bear. Commanding a main battle tank, he participated in the clearing of 2 minefields and the subsequent attack through the heart of the Iraqi defense. Upon returning home, Nick married April and began a family.
After 6 years of honorable and faithful service, Nick chose to move on to the civilian world. The day after he got out of the Marine Corps, he went straight to work as a construction worker in La Mesa, California. Soon after, he landed a job as a Correctional Officer for the State of Indiana Department of Corrections. Off he and his family went for a better opportunity. He quickly became the point man on the Cell Extraction Team, a Team Leader on the prison’s elite E-Squad, and was assigned as the Officer-in-Charge of an entire inmate housing unit. Despite his achievements in the Department of Corrections, Nick and April missed life in the Marines. So in the Fall of 1995, Nick reenlisted in the Marine Corps.
After returning to the Corps, Nick sought new challenges. He requested orders to Marine Corps Drill Instructor School, one of the most challenging schools in the military. He was an honor graduate of the course. During that assignment, Nick was promoted to Staff Sergeant and wore the coveted black belt of a Senior Drill Instructor.
Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Nick requested orders back to the tip of the spear. He returned to the Fleet Marine Force and was assigned as a Tank Commander and Platoon Sergeant. He deployed to the Middle East and commanded a tank in the initial invasion of Iraq and the March-up-to Baghdad in 2003. He distinguished himself in numerous offensive operations against enemy forces, was decorated for valor on the battlefield, and was the subject of a historic photo taken in Baghdad at the fall of the Saddam Regime. Nick remained on the streets of Baghdad and was a firsthand witness to the demise of a dictatorship and the rise of freedom.
Nick returned to Iraq in 2004, and was again assigned as a Tank Commander and Platoon Sergeant, this time in the City of Fallujah. Nick, now a Gunnery Sergeant, led the attack into the Jolan District, the most intense fighting of the battle for Fallujah, Operation Vigilant Resolve. For his actions against enemy forces and valor on the battlefield, Gunnery Sergeant Nick “Gunny Pop” Popaditch was awarded the Silver Star.
On April 7, 2004, during an intense exchange of firepower, Nick “Gunny Pop” Popaditch was struck in the head by a rocket-propelled grenade and was blinded along with other serious life threatening injuries. After returning home, the Navy Surgeons were able to restore 8% of the sight in Nick's remaining eye. Without their brilliant expertise and care, Nick would have remained totally and permanently blind. Gunnery Sergeant Popaditch was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps after 16 years of arduous and faithful service. He also received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat.
After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Nick quickly moved onto his next mission to rehabilitate and once again serve his fellow man and this great Nation. His new mission was to become a high school teacher. In the Spring of 2011, Nick graduated Magna Cum Laude from San Diego State University. Along the way, Nick Popaditch wrote his memoir Once a Marine. The book was the 2009 Military Writers Book of the Year. It was also selected to the Commandant of the Marine Corps Official Reading List for 3 consecutive years and is currently on the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Reading List. Nick's book is considered by many to be a leadership manual, a "must read" for leaders both in and out of the military.
Nick and April currently reside in Chula Vista. Nick is finishing his second book and has already begun his third. Nick is a highly sought speaker across the nation. He speaks predominately to multiple law enforcement agencies as well as schools, corporations, and churches. He serves his community as a Mentor/Instructor at the Midwest Marines Focus Program. Nick is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Education.
He was the GOP nominee for Congress in 2010 for California’s 51st District.