US Marine Tank Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch joins Lee and Nikki on Friday morning to talk about the War in Iraq. You'll see him featured in "Inside the Iraq War" which premieres on Sunday, December 13th at 8pm on Nat Geo.
Nick Popaditch enlisted in the US Marine Corps shortly after graduating high school. Nick served with the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and served as a tank commander during Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. After 6 years of active duty service Nick was honorably discharged in 1992.
In September of 1995 Nick reenlisted back into the Marine Corps.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003), Nick was assigned as a tank commander and Platoon Sergeant. Fighting at the "tip of the spear," Nick's unit was recognized worldwide as a symbol of American freedom when it helped topple the infamous Saddam Hussein statue in Firdos Square in April 2003. There, an AP photographer snapped a photograph of Nick in his tank's cupola smoking a cigar with the statue of Saddam looming in the background. The stunning image, which earned him the nickname, "The Cigar Marine," appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the globe. Following his return stateside as a Gunnery Sergeant, Nick volunteered to return to battle in Iraq in 2004.
Popaditch was awarded the Silver Star for actions in combat that April during Operation Vigilant Resolve (the first battle for Fallujah). During the same battle, he was wounded in action by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) to the head. Blinded, he was medevaced to Germany and then stateside. At Balboa Naval Hospital, 8% of the vision in Nick's remaining left eye was restored. Nick was medically retired at the rank of Gunnery Sergeant.
Watch his story and many others as part of "Inside the Iraq War" on Nat Geo this Sunday night at 8pm. And hear from him personally with Lee and Nikki on Friday morning on the Great Country Morning Show.