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Wounded Marine Corporal Todd Nicely loses his arms and his legs but not his spirit

7:31 PM, Sep 14, 2010   |    comments
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  • Marine Corporal Todd Nicely.
    

By Mike Bush

KSDK -- It may not be its official address, but Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. is a home for courage and valor.

The bills at this hospital include the price of freedom.

Marine Corporal Todd Nicely of Arnold has been here since April.

"He's an amazing individual," says Todd's wife, Crystal.

See pictures of Todd's recovery

With his wife and mom by his side, the 26-year-old is learning to use his new prosthetic arms and hands.

"He's doing very, very well. He's a very motivated guy," says occupational therapist Joe Butkus.

There are two things you will never hear in this therapy room: complaints or regrets.

"I feel extremely lucky to be alive," says Nicely.

Corporal Nicely was serving in Afghanistan, deep in Taliban territory.

"We couldn't get 600 meters outside of our base without getting fired upon," says Nicely.

In command of 12 men, Nicely was leading them on foot patrol last March, when they crossed a bridge.

"I went first and I stepped on a pressure plate," says Nicely.

He can recall landing on his back.

"I remember thinking, 'Keep breathing. I've got to get back to my wife. Keep breathing,'" he says.

Nicely did not open his eyes again until days later, in front of family, at a military hospital in Germany.

"It was so overwhelming," says Crystal. "Very emotional."

But the injuries were severe. Corporal Nicely not only lost his arms, but his legs too, becoming only the second American to survive this war after losing all four limbs.

The corporal is now approaching therapy with the same focus he showed on the battlefield.

"He wants to keep going as soon as he accomplishes something else it's what's next," says Julie Stanbrough, Todd's mother.

"And I was like, 'Oh wow, this is not a typical guy,'" says Butkus. "This is a motivated guy that's going to figure out a way to get it done."

Learning to have a soft touch when your hands are made of metal isn't easy, but the biggest challenge is mental.

"Getting over the frustration of not being able to do something," Nicely says.

It will be months before Todd Nicely can leave this place behind but on the road to recovery determination can chart a better course than a GPS.

"I definitely look forward to the future and possibly children," says Crystal. "Nothing has changed. He's still my husband and I still want everything I wanted before."

"I do feel lucky," says Nicely. "I could be one of the casualties but instead I'm going to be a normal functioning human here."

Clearly, there is plenty of fight left in this Marine. The war may have cost him his limbs but not his heart.

"I am so proud of him," says his Julie. "I couldn't be prouder."

Todd's wife Crystal was also a Marine. She says the training was tough but there is nothing tougher than being the wife of Marine.

Todd wants to thank all the support he's gotten from friends and family. Especially, his dad Richard Nicely from Union, Mo. His stepfather Mike Stanbrough. And his siblings Nichole Stokes Boyer, Ryan Stokes, Michael Nicely, Ricky Nicely and Kasey Nicely.

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To help Todd and Crystal, you can send donations to:

Todd A. Nicely Donations
6900 Georgia Ave, NW
Abrams Hall Box 4207
Washington, DC 20307

There will also be a benefit for Todd on Sunday, June 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at VFW Hall in Arnold, located at 2301 Church Road. A charity kickball tournament has been scheduled for September 12 at St. Bernadette Church. For more information on the kickball tournament, visit www.kickballstl.net.

To follow Todd's progress, check out http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/toddnicely/journal.

KSDK

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