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Iraq: The Battle for Fallujah

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Episode No. 39 Iraq: The Battle for Fallujah

Date:  December 5, 2008

Notes: Gunnery Sergeant Nicholas A. Popaditch, USMC (ret.). On April 7, 2004, during the First Battle of Fallujah, Gunnery Sergeant Popaditch “was wounded in action.

Gunnery Sergeant Nicholas A. Popaditch enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in January 1986. After recruit training, “PFC Popaditch was assigned the job of tank crewman and given orders to report to the Basic Crewman’s Course.”  During the First Gulf War, “he was assigned as Tank Commander of Bravo 2-2 (an M60A1 main battle tank) and promoted to the rank of Sergeant. During Operation Desert Storm, Sgt Popaditch commanded his tank through breaching operations of two minefields and numerous offensive operations against Iraqi forces as part of Task Force Papa Bear.” 

Between the wars, Popaditch was an instructor at Tank Commander’s School and honorably discharged in May 1992.  He returned to Indiana where he worked as a construction worker and a correctional officer.  Ultimately, he re-enlisted in the Marine Corps and in December 1998, became a drill instructor. 

During the Second Gulf War, he “commanded his tank through numerous offensive operations against Iraqi forces. Following the fall of Saddam’s Regime in Iraq, he participated in security and stabilization operations on the streets of Baghdad. In July 2003, he returned stateside.”   In the Fall of 2003, now Staff Sergeant Popaditch “volunteered to return to Iraq.”  In February 2004, he was “promoted to Gunnery Sergeant.  And, in April 2004 his platoon was assigned to combat duty in the city Fallujah.”

On April 7, 2004, during the First Battle of Fallujah, Gunnery Sergeant Popaditch “was wounded in action. During a firefight with enemy insurgents, he was struck in the head by an enemy Rocket Propelled Grenade, fired from a rooftop into the commander’s hatch of his tank. He received numerous shrapnel wounds.” His injuries necessitated the removal of his right eye; and, “his remaining eye was legally blind. His right ear and nose sustained significant damage and an implant was placed in his skull.”

In his book, Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander’s Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery, Popaditch describes how at first he “fights to get back to where he was in Iraq - in the cupola of an M1A1 main battle tank, leading Marines in combat at the point of the spear. As the seriousness and permanence of his disabilities become more evident, Nick fights to remain in the Corps in any capacity, to help the brothers in arms he so aches to rejoin. Facing the inevitable following a medical retirement, he battles for rightful recognition and compensation for his permanent disabilities. Throughout his harrowing ordeal, Nick fights to maintain his honor and loyalty, waging all these battles the same way - the Marine way.”

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