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ONCE A MARINE: An Iraq War Tank Commander’s Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery.
If anyone might dare to compare the toughness, courage or commitment of today’s modern Marines to their historical predecessors, we encourage them to read, “Once a Marine.” Medically retired Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch’s touching memoir will serve to allay any of your fears, while causing a surge of Marine Corps pride. Our trigger-pullers in the global war on terrorism are up to any historical comparison of our Corps’ extensive warrior tradition.
“Gunny Pop,” a Silver Star winner, served in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Tank commander Popaditch rode boldly into Iraq during Desert Storm astride his M60 tank nicknamed the “Bates Motel.” He and his crew destroyed three enemy tanks, five armored personnel carriers and copious Iraqi infantrymen. Between wars, then-Sergeant Pop served as a DI, having held all three coveted drill instructor billets: third, heavy and senior.
In his first tour during our current Middle East conflict, he was photographed atop the cupola of his M1A1 main battle tank, smiling and clutching a cigar while the grandiose statue of Saddam was toppled. This widely circulated photo gained him the moniker, “The Cigar Marine.” After returning home to serve with the 1st Tank Battalion, Gunny Pop was redeployed to Iraq. During his second tour, he won a Silver Star for his action during the slugfest Battle of Fallujah. He also suffered a devastating head wound. Miraculously, the gunny survived a well-aimed rocket-propelled grenade to his tanker’s helmet. By the miracle of modern military medicine, and fortified by his leatherneck training, he not only survived, but he prevailed.
This book is less a story of battle than it is the remarkable story of the grit Gunny Pop needed throughout his long and dark road to recovery. This ghastly injury caused the gunny to lose his right eye, and it drastically impaired his vision in the other. But Gunny Pop would not go gently into the good night! He owes his remarkable recovery to excellent doctors and nurses, his loving family and loyalty of his leatherneck brothers.
After all, a Marine never quits! In his book, the gunny encourages all disabled or disenfranchised veterans to make an aggressive fight for suitable treatment, and always stay on the attack!
Gunny Pop’s legendary account takes us back to the days when ships were made of wood, but the Marines who served in them were made of cast iron. In this touching but tough-minded volume, Gunny Pop’s “always faithful” heart beats with every turn of the page. This is the inspirational story of a hard-charging combat Marine on his new and unanticipated mission, seeking justice, redemption and recovery.
Forced to separate from his beloved Corps, he continues to be an example of why leathernecks oft roar: “Once a Marine, Always a Marine!” Readers will shed a tear and simultaneously burst out with eagle, globe and anchor-emotive pride. That, I guarantee!
Retired Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch’s narrative will burn through your heart and then settle deep in your gut. Ralph Peters, author, columnist, and spot-on geopolitical analyst, wrote: “Read this inspiring story, recommend it to friends—and send a copy to your member of Congress.”
ONCE A MARINE: An Iraq War Tank Commander’s Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery.
By Nick Popaditch with Mike Steere. Published by Savas Beatie.
320 pages. Stock #1932714472.
$22.50 MCA Members. $25 Regular Price.
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Today in USMC History
1933 - Navy Department creates Fleet Marine Force.
1941 - The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor left more than 3,000 Marines and Sailors killed in action.
Related Story: Pearl Harbor Remembered By Gordon C. Van Hauser Leatherneck Magazine (Dec. 1991)
Historic Leatherneck Magazine Covers
Leatherneck Staff Artist, Technical Sergeant Robert Fleischauer, felt that our July cover should be commemorative of the Fourth of July. Since the members of the missile units are probably the Corps' best rocketeers, he picked them to perform a standard Fourth of July action. Whether or not the "Honest Johnny" is useful as a combat piece is a matter for debate, but you can't beat it for morale." [July 1957.]
“The Join Up on the Nick” by Major Alex Durr, USMCR, a member of the History Division, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.
Hospitalman Daniel T. Bobic, assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 3d Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, rappelled at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, in late April, 2002.
The oldest post of the Marine Corps, Washington, DC, is celebrating 200 years of excellence. Posed near the Barracks main gate were members of the official Color Guard of the United States Marine Corps (left to right): LCpl Joseph N. Keough, rifleman; Sgt Blake L. Richardson, Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps; Cpl Gerardo A. Guajardo, organizational color bearer; and LCpl Gregory A. Serwo, rifleman.
GySgt Verlando Frazier, East Coast Food Service Management Team, looked ready to dig into some of the new items included in MREs.
This photo by Sgt Earnie Grafton of Marines from Fox Co., 2/4 shows varied emotions as they greeted the coalition forces outside Kuwait city.
A fleet of trucks was needed to transport Dr. Felix de Weldon’s original model of the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue from the sculptor’s home in Newport, R.I., to the grounds of the Marine Military Academy at Harlingen, Texas. After the statue’s arrival, a nearly around-the-clock effort by skilled workmen was required in order to have the memorial reassembled and ready for dedication ceremonies on April 16, 1982.
In April this year (1981), two squadrons of AV-8A “Harriers” sailed for the Mediterranean aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau. Purpose of the cruise was to demonstrate the Navy/Marine Corps team’s capability to augment naval forces in any area of the World on short notice and to provide at-sea training for Marine Harrier pilots.
The cover of Leatherneck’s Bicentennial issue is an oil painting by the late Colonel Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. The painting depicts General George Washington’s Colonial troops at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, Va., during the French and Indian War.
Sightseeing tours for the men of the Marine Barracks, San Juan, Puerto Rico, include a trip to the El Morro Fortress. San Juan is now retired as a Post of the Corps.
The Marines in Vietnam have found that the programs which work best are those which operate close to the people. Our July cover is a mixed media (acrylic and charcoal) by Art Editor James L. Hopewell. It catches the spirit of Marines who enjoy their relationship with the Vietnamese around them.
In Naples, Italy, Marines are responsible for the internal security of the Headquarters of NATO’s Southern European Command, while the elite Carabinieri Corpa provides external security. PFC Robert M. Mallard’s NATO shield was admired by a Carabiniere as the two men prepared to take up their side-by-side posts at the entrance of the imposing NATO Headquarters, which appears in the background of this cover.
"We've Fought In Every Clime And Place": Stamping out the Caco Insurrection in the Republic d' Haiti.
January 2002: The Marines engraved another mark in the rich history of the Corps when they came from more than 400 miles offshore to establish a forward operating base south of Kandahar in the war on terrorism. The Marine CH-46 helicopter on the cover, photographed by PH1(AW/SW) Greg Messier, USN, fought in the desert sand to land and resupply Marines such as the ones (inset) photographed by Sgt Joseph R. Chenelly.
January 2001: This firefight during the Frozen Chosin Reservoir Campaign of 1950 was painted by “Chosin Few” veteran Jack Cannon, who served with Company B, 1st Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment and resides in the warmer climes of New Mexico. The cover was part of Leatherneck’s 50th anniversary salute to the Korean War veterans.
January 1992: This cover photograph of runners during Marine Corps Marathon XVI in Washington, D.C., was photographed by Sgt Deirdre Hallett.
January 1991: This month’s cover by Ross Simpson captures the Marines’ waiting-but-ready posture in the Middle East.
January 1982: Participants in the Sixth Annual Marine Corps Marathon presented a colorful spectacle as they began the 26-mile, 385-yard run in Washington, D.C., November 1, 1981. The cover photo, by Tom Bartlett, was taken from a bridge overlooking Highway 50 about a half-mile from the starting line.
January 1981: Nearly 7,800 runners participated in the Fifth Annual Marine Corps Marathon held in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. The oldest finisher was 78; the youngest was 10. Leatherneck staffer Ron Lunn pre-positioned himself near the Nation’s Capitol to photograph runners during their 14th mile of the 26-mile, 385-yard course.
January 1972: This month’s cover, by Marine Combat Artist Peter Gish, shows members of the New Corps sightseeing in the Old World. While on liberty in Athens, Greece, the 3d Bn, Eighth Marines, were able to tour the Erektheon Porch and Cariatides. The water color is from the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Art collection.
Originally Published December 1983 -- Something tells us that we could date the cover without knowing when it was published.
Originally Published December 1972 -- We're not sure what's more interesting, Santa or the old style gas pump.
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This November 1992 article in the Marine Corps Gazette looked at the uniform regulations of 1859 and the attempt to standardize uniforms within the Corps. Read the story and see more pics.