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Introduction to the Book Once a Marine by Nick “Gunny Pop” Popaditch

Published Tuesday, May 27, 2008 in About the book

I don’t mind that you can sit down next to somebody and shoot the breeze for a while and not know much of anything about who that person really is and where he or she comes from. And I am perfectly content if people don’t know my story, which I feel no great need to tell.

If somebody asks, though, I’m proud to say I’m a retired United States Marine. Though many people act like it’s rude or insensitive to ask, I don’t mind telling how I lost my right eye and practically all the vision in my left, as well as the hearing in one ear, a good deal of my sense of balance and equilibrium, and all of my sense of smell. I was wounded in battle, leading Marines, fighting for a cause that I believed in my heart and soul to be right. If you turned back the clock, I’d do it all again, even if I got wounded again—even if this time the enemy fighter made a better shot and killed me. I can’t think of a better way to die. I also can’t think of a better way to live, than as a fighting Marine.

But I wouldn’t say anything unless you asked. Proud as I am of my service in the Marine Corps, my pride is a private matter. And I am very reluctant to tell war stories in public because when other guys do it, it often comes off like bragging, which I do not like.

So why do this book? For one thing, my story is about all the people who helped me get going after I was wounded. I’m here, in the shape I’m in, because I have had heroes at my side every step of the way. I want, too, to honor all my fellow wounded warriors. There are thousands of us who fought with pride in Iraq and Afghanistan and now have to get on with our lives, facing challenges we never expected. Compared to many, I got off very, very light.

Americans should know more about us and be proud that we receive such wonderful care and support. We are the best-treated combat casualties in history. On the other hand, there are legitimate gripes. Not everybody gets a fair shake. This story lays out my own long and complicated fight to get complete recognition of my disabilities and all the benefits I rate. Sad to say, vets fight such battles to this day.

Finally, I especially want to honor the great branch of the military in which I spent fifteen years of my life and would, if I could, have spent more. I am what I am because I served as a United States Marine, and I want to tell of the great gifts the Corps gave to me and the important lessons it taught me, only a few of which came in combat. Most of a military career is spent far from the battlefield. Service is a professional, community, and family life that my wife and two boys and I loved. The Corps was our home, and I want people to appreciate what a wonderful home it was.

And this story of mine isn’t just for and about the military. Millions of people come to a point where all their plans and dreams and expectations go right out the window. Everything changes and they can’t be what they were, so they’ve got to be something else, and their past helps them go forward and succeed. In my own case, I can’t be a Marine tank commander and Gunnery Sergeant any more, and that’s all I ever wanted to be. Now I’m out of uniform and in college with kids half my age, looking forward to a future I didn’t dream of until very recently. Though I’ll always be a Marine, I can’t live looking back. And I believe, with all my heart, that life’s greatest challenges and accomplishments lie ahead. I sincerely hope this book helps you realize the same about your life.

Consider yourself warned: The G-rated writing ends here. I tell the story the way many of us Marines speak, using some rough, tough, and extremely salty language. The point is not to shock or offend, but to put you there with me and my brothers.


There are many people who made this book possible. If anyone does not find his or her name here, please know that its absence was an oversight, and your contribution is deeply appreciated.

There are many people who made this book possible. If anyone does not find his or her name here, please know that its absence was an oversight, and your contribution is deeply appreciated.

First, we owe deep gratitude and appreciation to Eric Weider, who conceived of this book, put us together as a collaborative team, and provided generous support. Without Eric, Once a Marine would never have some to be.

More of the same goes to our publisher, Savas Beatie LLC, and its managing director, Theodore P. “Ted’ Savas. Ted shared our vision, flew to Los Angeles to meet with Nick and Eric, and accepted this book for publication with whole-hearted enthusiasm and respect for the integrity of the story.

Word surgeon Dan Ferrara performed an exceptional line edit that made the book leaner, meaner, and harder hitting.

From the beginning of our work, April Popaditch provided moral support and opened her heart so the family side of our story could be told more fully and frankly. April also keeps the Popaditch archives, to which we often referred for facts. Mike’s wife Sue Cross recognized before he did the great potential of Nick’s story and encouraged him to get on board. Both our families lost serious husband- and dad-time, but with no complaints.

Jen Haskamp, Sgt. Haskamp in the book and now out of uniform but still a Marine through-and-through, was—and remains—our first, best reader. She provided crucial early encouragement and reassurance that the story does the Marine Corps proud.

Marketing Director Sarah Keeney has been our indispensable logistics chief at Savas Beatie LLC. Eric Weider’s Executive Assistant Sari Kahn provided able assistance and backup. Transcriptionist Barb Krultz put hours and hours of digitally recorded blah-blah down on paper, making it look clearer than it sounded. We got smiles, along with incredibly fast turnaround of sundry printed versions of the manuscript, from Jennifer and Michael at FedEx Kinko’s on Napa Street in San Diego.

Everyone who touched this book, at any stage of its progress, helped us, and we are mindful and thankful.


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What is the book Once A Marine about?

In April 2004, Nick Popaditch fights heroically in the battle for Fallujah and suffers grievous head wounds that leave him legally blind and partially deaf. The USMC awards him with a Silver Star for his valor and combat innovation.

"Gunny Pop" comes home to face the toughest fight of his life-a battle to remain the man and Marine he was. This is the central drama of Nick's inspiring memoir, Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery.

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Book Information

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