Marine Veteran and One of Youngest Purple Heart Recipients Passes Away

Marine Veteran and One of Youngest Purple Heart Recipients Passes Away Suddenly

January 12, 2015

Marine Veteran and One of Youngest Purple Heart Recipients Passes Away Suddenly

Sad story from Charleston, SC as a former Marine infantryman and one of the youngest recipients of the purple heart passed away suddenly overnight in his bed. Marine Nick Riccio survived 10 years after receiving a massive brain injury during combat in Iraq at age 19.

The fact that Riccio survived the injury he received when his base - Camp Fallujah - came under fire in 2004 is amazing enough. That he went on and lived a full life with a wife and two children shows that the Marine was truly a fighter and survivor.

Besides becoming - at age 19 - one of the youngest recipient of the Purple Heart, this brave wounded warrior also received the National Defense Service Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon along with many other commendations.

Marine Survives Massive Brain Injury

In an interview with the Marine infantryman which discussed the day his unit came under fire while searching for the insurgents who attacked his base, Nick Riccio said, "We hunched down, shooting out security patrols and started taking incoming fire," Nick said in an archived interview. "I'd say five or six mortars hit around us. One hitting a tree above us, injuring five other Marines, including myself. Me, the most severe."

Here's the account of what happened next according to the story of the Marine's death in Charleston's The Post and Courier newspaper.

"A nickel-sized chunk of shrapnel shot into the back of Riccio's head, blasted through his brain and blew out his right temple. Riccio slumped forward onto his weapon. A Navy corpsman held his skull together as the group raced over 25 miles toward safety and medical care. Riccio's heart stopped beating twice.

At a Baghdad hospital, surgeons performed an emergency craniotomy, removing a palm-sized section of his skull to give his brain room to swell without killing critical tissue."

Life After Near-Death of Marine

One day after Nick's 19th birthday the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps presented him with his Purple Heart in his Bethesda hospital room. The young, wounded hero went on to start a military family with a wife and two children. He later underwent surgery to attach his skull.

Unfortunately, Riccio dealt with nightmares and chronic physical pain for the next 10 years of his life. He battled migraines, short-term memory loss and combat flashbacks. But, even while battling his combat and injury-related issues on a daily basis, the Marine made it a point to be a great dad, husband and friend.

A friend of Riccio told The Post and Courier, "It's definitely heartbreaking," said Gerald Weatherford, a neighbor and close friend. "Nick was a great friend and a great father. He loved his country and loved his family."

We wish the best to Nick Riccio's family and friends. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. You will never be forgotten.

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