Honor your hero with thoughts, memories, images and stories.
Nick grew up in Middleville, MI we moved here when he was 3 years old. He was a unique young man who stood out for a couple of different reasons. Number one was his bright red hair that he wore all tall and messy…well it was actually a strategic mess with each hair in a place where only he knew it belonged. Number two was his smile, it was contagious and could start you laughing at things that weren’t even that funny. His Sergeant and team leader in Afghanistan called it “patented”. Nick loved playing outside with his brothers Kyle and Bobby. In middle school he played basketball and soccer, played the drums in band and even had a part in the 8th grade musical but I think he did the musical just to hang out with girls more, he really couldn’t sing. He was a typical high school student, hanging out with his friends, playing golf and active in his church. He went to games, homecoming and prom. Nicky golfed all 4 years and even did pretty well at it, he received a varsity letter his freshman year and was also voted most valuable freshman. High school was where the car bug bit him pretty hard. He actually had a really nice car but he chose to tear it into a million pieces and drive a piece of junk. All through high school he drove the ratty old Honda called the “The Star Car” while he slaved away on “Monica” the name he gave his 95’ Eagle Tallon. He practically lived in the barn his last two years of high school giving up nights out with his buddies to work on his precious project. We didn’t have heat in the barn but he would just bundle up and stay out there until he couldn’t move his fingers any more. He finished the car in an all-out blitz similar to the reality shows on TV. I helped him fit the doors and hang them for the last time at 2 a.m. the night before his graduation open house. Half of the barn at his open house was dedicated to the big unveiling. He had not just finished the car, he had built a show winner. He received awards at nearly every show he took it to and was eventually sponsored by several companies. Shortly after Nick died an older gentlemen waited patiently to talk with me at a car show. He recounted how Nick had pulled up to next to him with his sport compact at a car show. He was nervous that Nick would be some obnoxious kid with loud funky music playing but Nick jumped out walked right up to him, looked him in the eyes with his “patented” smile, gave him a firm handshake and introduced himself. He went on to say that “by the end of the day your son and I were best friends”! Monica was our first glimpse into Nick’s resolve to finish and excel at anything he put his mind to. But we weren’t prepared for his next goal. Nick was nearly done with his second year of college when he told us he was going to enter the Army. He had met an ex special operations soldier at school who told Nick of how significant he felt while serving his country. He told Nick he had to leave due to an injury but would give anything to be part of a team like that again. Nick told us he wanted to serve and do something significant before finishing college. He set his sights on serving at the tip of the spear in a special operations unit and started preparation. He prepared spiritually by meeting with our pastor to discuss things like taking a life and possibly losing his own and he had his Grandpa who is also a pastor Baptize him. He prepared physically by first determining how much weight he would have to carry to make it on a special operations team. He then stuffed barbell weights in a cheap highschool backpack and started rucking. He rucked and rucked and rucked some more, he went to the high school gym and lifted hard. An avid reader, he prepared mentally by reading every book he could find on Special Operations and what he would be facing in training and battle. We dropped of Nick at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) on April 11th of 2007. We stayed with him thru the swearing in ceremony and then followed the van taking him to the airport for several miles before finally turning away, Nick’s mom cried all the way home. Nick went to basic training at Fort Benning, he was in a program called 18xray which meant they would go directly to special forces if they passed all the training. For this reason the drill sergeants were much harder on them and determined to break them from the start. After 9 weeks of basic Nick started AIT or Advanced Infantry Training which lasted 5 weeks. He enjoyed one weekend off before he went to the the hallowed grounds of Airborne school. The jump towers he trained off of and the barracks he stayed in were constructed for Airborne training in World War 2. On one of his night training jumps things went terribly wrong, they missed their landing zone and were dropped in trees, Nick dropped early and just missed the trees himself. He said he imagined that war might feel similar, people screaming, helicopters buzzing overhead with search lights on the trees and people running everywhere trying to help the injured. A few months later in a training jump Nick would land in a tree himself but wasn’t injured. Nick had zero time off between Airborne and Special Forces selection. They arrived at Camp McCall early in the morning before sunrise and the torture began. Nick lasted longer than most but eventually succumbed to an injury, he was devastated, discouraged and worried his dreams of serving with the Army’s elite were over. Nick however was a squared away soldier, his Sergeant and peer reviews were all excellent so once he recovered from his injuries he was sent to Q-school for PsyOps. PsyOps is a special operations group that works directly with the Special Forces and other branch’s elite groups. He passed Q-School with flying colors, his team leader told us he lapped the field in the PT test. He was sent to the Warrior Leaders Course, special shooting schools and the Gryphon Group driving school. He also spent 6 months in language training at the JFK Special Warfare School. Nick's unit deployed to Afghanistan on Easter Sunday of 2009. He and his teammate Jason were assigned to a Marine Special operations team and Nick was now indeed at the tip of the spear. Though the youngest on his team, the MARSOC Marines quickly took Nick in as one of their own. Nick was known for his sense of humor, his work ethic and respect for those in authority over him, this helped him immensely in both his civilian and military life. On Nick’s first mission he drove for almost 24 hours straight on unfamiliar and dangerous mountain roads. He used night vision goggles to keep driving and maintain security in the dark. On another mission they were outside the wire for 5 weeks and 3 days with just the clothes they had on and one change. Nick’s responsibility was to train the Afghan forces, gather and disseminate information, earn the respect of Afghan tribal elders and when needed participate in direct action missions to eliminate threats. As they prepared for a mission on the evening of Aug.15th 2009 Nick was given instructions by his team leader as to what to do with his belongings if he didn’t make it back. Nick tried to encourage his nearly 20 year older teammate that they would be fine and everyone was coming home. The team had reliable intel indicating they would be attacked that night but they wouldn’t shirk from their responsibilities, it would give the enemy a sense of victory and further embolden them. Nick’s commander told us “That makes Nick’s team no different than the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, they knew the possible outcome when they left the FOB but they went willingly”. They left at about 11pm, after completing their mission and fighting through an ambush on the return route they were just 8 miles from the FOB when Nick's Humvee was hit by an IED. The Humvee was thrown into the air at least 20 feet, it flipped once and landed facing the opposite direction and on its side. Nick was pinned beneath it. They were immediately attacked with RPG’s and small arms fire, their support, an AC130 gunship had been shot at with a surface to air missile and was forced to leave them helpless to evade it. Without a moment’s hesitation these heroes ran into the open to try and save the injured. Three Marines were unconscious, one (Eden) was thrown 100’ from the wreckage and received burns over 95% of his body. One marine who later had to have his leg amputated was dragging himself to safety and yelling at the Marines to leave him and help those with more serious injuries. Jake the dog handler ran into the hail of bullets and with super human strength managed to rock the Humvee off of Nick while Adam pulled him out. Sadly the MSOT team leader Mastet Sgt. Eden Pearl died of his injuries 20 Dec, 2015. We received the following email from the pilot of the AC130 Gunship that was flying support for them that evening: “While it was never my privilege to know your son personally, I want you to know that I witnessed him and his team working that evening. They were fearless. They were professional. They fought for each other without a moment's hesitation. I flew sixty combat sorties over Afghanistan last year. Your son's was my second flight and my first loss of troops on the ground, although sadly not my last. It will live with me forever, and I carry with me the honor of knowing your son's name. I will promise you that the story of his sacrifice, and the sacrifice of his brothers in arms, will be known and spoken of with reverence until I take my last breath on this planet. It's my sincere hope that through this brief glimpse into Nick's life you won't forget him either. Nick's forever crazy proud parents, Bob n Donna