Editorial Salute - 10/20/11

This is an amazing story of commitment to the protection of our nation and to soldiering, chronicled by the Wall Street Journal.   Staff Sergeant Don Nicholas is currently deployed with the 25th Infantry Division in eastern Afghanistan.  As are thousands of other American troops, so what makes his being there so unusual.  Try the fact that Sergeant Nicholas is 59-years old.  Not a unit guest or embedded reporter.  Don Nicholas is a combat soldier, by far the oldest among the Division's six-thousand members. 

From high school, Sergeant Nicholas joined the Marines in 1971, hoping to  serve in Vietnam, which he did, to help prevent his or anyone's future children from "living under communism."  Following Vietnam service, and a tour in Germany, he left the Marine Corps to attend college back in the states, eventually earning a medical degree.  Throughout his private practice, he continued to stay in shape, with hopes of one day, returning to the Marines.  He tried during the first Gulf War and again after the September 11th attack, but the Marines declined. He kept trying to re-join the military and, finally in 2004, at age 52, the Army Reserve found a slot. By the following year, he was in Afghanistan for his first tour there.  Upon his return home, he volunteered again, this time, spending a year in Iraq.  Back home, Sergeant Nicholas continued his quest to return to combat, finding himself, now, back in Afghanistan.  When asked why he repeatedly sought deployment, the Sergeant responded: "I'm taking the place of a 19-year-old."  Staff Sergeant Don Nicholas, shielding another young American from the sacrifice that combat demands, clearly an incredible, selfless commitment from one of our nation's quiet heroes.