Marine Welcomed Home to Tampa with Bagpipes, Bayshore

Cpl. Mike Nicholson and family Nov. 2011. Photo courtesy of his website.

Sunday (19 Feb. 2012), bagpipers, an honor guard and flag waving friends, airport employees and community supporters will greet Marine Corporal Mike Nicholson at Tampa International Airport.

The community is encouraged to join the welcome the  wounded Marine at the Airside F shuttle or along Bayshore Boulevard.

Cpl. Nicholson, 22, is the son of John Nicholson, a 13 year employee at TIA. The young Marine lost both legs and his left arm while on combat foot patrol in Afghanistan in July when a hidden explosive went off. He has endured 23 surgeries, but is making an extraordinary recovery, learning to walk again with the help of prosthetics.

There’s a website dedicated to Cpl. Nicholson journey and recovery. It includes photos of his progress and journal entries from family.

Cpl. Nicholson practicing with his new prosthetics.

Welcoming him home will be a motorcade that includes the Patriot Guard Riders, Tampa police officers and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies which will lead Cpl. Nicholson from the airport, down Bayshore Boulevard and then to Christ the King Church for a ceremony.

Architect Richard Hartmann told the Tampa Tribune, Nicholson requested the drive down Tampa’s waterfront roadway that links downtown to MacDill Air Force Base:

Nicholson had one wish about his homecoming.

“He wanted to ride down Bayshore Boulevard,” Hartmann said.

The motorcade will travel from Tampa International Airport to downtown, south on Ashley Drive, right on Brorein Street, left on Bayshore Boulevard, right on Bay to Bay Boulevard, right on Church Avenue and on to the pavilion at Christ the King.

His flight is scheduled to arrive Sunday, Feb. 19 at 1:45 p.m. in the main terminal near the Airside F shuttle.

The welcome home ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Christ the King Church pavilion, on Church Street near South Dale Mabry Highway.

Cpl. Nicholson participating in a four day Miami to Key West Cycling Challenge sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project.

Volunteers Build an Iraq War Veteran a New Home in Florida

SSG Juan Roldan lost both his legs in an IED explosion in Iraq. While recovering at Walter Reed, he met Lt. Col. (Ret.) Andrew Lourake, who volunteered to help amputees because he too lost a leg but was able to remain on active duty.

Friday morning hammers began swinging as more than 100 volunteers started to build a house in Parrish, Florida for Army Staff Sergeant Juan Roldan. The non-profit Homes for Our Troops enlisted the local construction community to contribute materials and labor for the severely injured soldier’s home.

Red shirts handed out to the volunteer builders were everywhere. Their goal: to frame, side and roof the injured veterans’ new house in the Harrison Ranch subdivision by the end of Sunday.

The home’s interior will be finished over the next few months with large door openings, a roll-in shower and other adaptations for Army Staff Sergeant Juan Roldan, who lost both his legs in an IED explosion in Iraq.

“Nobody had any obligation building this house, nobody,” said a soft spoken Roldan who was overwhelmed by the response of volunteers. “But people chose to contribute in whichever way they could and for that I will be eternally grateful.”

He has spent the last four and a half years recuperating from his injuries, including Traumatic Brain Injuries, at Walter Reed Hospital. That’s where Lt. Col. Andrew Lourake met him.

The goal is to have the injured veteran's home framed, with siding and a roof within three days.

“Being an active duty person with an amputation, I was in the unique position to be able to go and mentor, counsel wounded coming back, showing life basically is not over just because you have an amputation,” Lourake said. Despite losing one of his legs above the knee, Lourake returned to active duty as a pilot. He now is retired to Florida.

Roldan said he’s looking forward to having his mentor over to his home soon and to having neighbors instead of roommates. And most importantly, his daughter will have her own room.

And Parrish will soon have a new family thanks to the generosity of Badger Construction, Taylor Morrison and the other contributors who signed on with Homes for Our Troops to build Roldan a new home.

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