Nick Popaditch

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Nick Popaditch
Popaditch in 2005
Personal details
BornJuly 2, 1967
Hammond, Indiana[1]
Political partyRepublican
Alma materSan Diego State University
AwardsSilver Star
Purple Heart
Military service
Nickname(s)Gunny Pop[2]
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1986–1992 & 1995–2005
RankGunnery Sergeant
Unit1st Tank Battalion
Battles/warsPersian Gulf War
Iraq War

Nicholas Allen Popaditch[1] (born July 2, 1967) is a medically retired United States Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who gained fame as the "Cigar Marine", recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart. He ran unsuccessfully as the 2010 Republican candidate for California's 51st congressional district, losing to incumbent Democrat Bob Filner. He ran again in 2012 in the 53rd congressional district, losing to incumbent Democrat Susan Davis.[3]

Military career[edit]

Popaditch was born in East Chicago, Indiana and was raised in Terre Haute, Indiana. After choosing not to take up a college scholarship,[4] he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1986, served as a tank commander, and eventually rose to the rank of gunnery sergeant. He saw action in the first Gulf War in 1991 and was honorably discharged in 1992. In 1995, he rejoined the Corps and served with the 1st Tank Battalion at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms and later became a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.[5][6]

During the Iraq War, Staff Sergeant Popaditch was assigned as a tank commander and platoon sergeant.[7] Participating in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, his unit gained fame when it helped topple the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square on April 9, 2003.[5] Associated Press photographer Laurent Rebours photographed Popaditch in his tank's cupola, smoking a cigar with the statue of Saddam looming in the background. The image, which earned him the nickname "The Cigar Marine," appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world to describe the Battle of Baghdad.[7] He would later reveal that his smoking was a celebration of his and his wife's twelfth wedding anniversary as well as victory.[8] Following his return to the United States, he was promoted to gunnery sergeant and volunteered to return to Iraq in 2004.[9]

During his second deployment, Popaditch commanded tanks again in the First Battle of Fallujah in April 2004.[5] During the battle on April 7, supported dismounted infantry with a pair of M1A1 Abrams, and turning onto a narrow street, he opened his hatch for better visibility despite the constant RPG-7 attacks.[10] He was wounded in action in an ambush when a rocket propelled grenade struck him in the head. Blinded and deafened, he struggled to maintain consciousness until his tank was moved out of danger, then was evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. After a prolonged stay, he was sent back to the United States, ultimately losing his right eye (due to damage to the optic nerve) and hearing in his right ear.[11] At Naval Medical Center San Diego, some of the vision in his remaining left eye was restored by the hospital's medical professionals, while his ocular prosthesis features the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor instead of a pupil.[12] On November 10, 2005, he was awarded the Silver Star for actions in combat.[13] and medically retired at the rank of Gunnery Sergeant on April 22.[14]

Civilian career[edit]

After a brief recovery period living in Monterey, California,[15] Popaditch became an active advocate of veteran's issues. In addition to advising and consulting, he serves on the boards of multiple organizations advancing the care of wounded veterans and their families, such as the Purple Heart Advisory board of the Freedom is Not Free organization, the Vet Foundation, the US Department of Veterans Affair's Patient-Centered Care Steering Committee, and speaks for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation of the Desert Cities, and the Independence Fund.[5] Popaditch was profiled by MTV when he was trained by the Wounded Marine Career Foundation in sound production,[16][17] and later graduated magna cum laude earning a Bachelor of Arts in education from San Diego State University.[18]

In 2008, Popaditch authored, with Mike Steere, the memoir Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery, (Savas Beatie LLC, 2008), which detailed his combat experiences, recovery, and difficulties with disability and Veterans Administration.[19] It received favorable reviews,[20][21][22] was featured on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' recommended professional reading list for all ranks,[23] won The Military-Writers Book of the Year for 2009, and was a national book club selection.[24] In 2012, Popaditch was residing in Chula Vista, and was married, and has two sons.[25] In 2013, Popaditch authored a 178-page book The Ultimate Marine Recruit Training Guidebook, a book for potential Marine recruits.[26][27] In 2014, Popaditch was studying to become a math teacher.[28]

Political campaigns[edit]


On November 10, 2009, Popaditch announced his campaign for California's 51st congressional district as a Republican.[29] The incumbent, Democrat Bob Filner, has held the seat since 1992. It is viewed by most as a Democratic district, though George W. Bush earned 46% of the vote there in 2004. Popaditch was endorsed by former presidential candidate and Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee and former Congressman Duncan Hunter; he cited his "love of country" for why he was running for political office.[30] There was also a controversy within the Veterans of Foreign Wars when members disagreed over endorsement,[31] another when the Imperial Valley Press published an editorial cartoon mocking his eyepatch[32][33] (which Filner called "in poor taste"[34]), and a third when Filner's campaign ran an advertisement accusing Popoditch of not voting in the past eleven years.[35][36][37] He was unopposed in the Republican primary, was profiled in the Wall Street Journal,[38] but lost 60%-40% to Filner.[39][40]


In January 2012, Popaditch announced his intention to seek the congressional seat in the newly redistricted 53rd Congressional District[41] against incumbent Democrat Susan Davis,[42] after receiving 42% of the vote during the June primary.[43][44] Endorsed by the San Diego Union Tribune,[45] he lost to Davis in the general election, receiving 39.6% of the vote.[3]


Popaditch is the recipient of the following awards:[46]

Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver Star Purple Heart
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal w/ valor device & 1 award star Combat Action Ribbon w/ 1 award star Navy Presidential Unit Citation
Navy Unit Commendation Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation w/ 1 service star Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ 4 service stars National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star
Southwest Asia Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Armed Forces Service Medal
Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon w/ 3 service stars Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)

Silver Star citation[edit]

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Gunnery Sergeant Nicholas A. Popaditch, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Tank Platoon Sergeant, First Platoon, Company C, First Tank Battalion, Second Battalion, First Marine Regiment, FIRST Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from 6 to 7 April 2004. While on patrol in the city of Al Fallujah, Iraq, Fox Company came under heavy enemy fire and without hesitation, Gunnery Sergeant Popaditch surged his two tanks into the city to support the Marines under fire. He led his tank section several blocks into the city, drawing enemy fire away from the beleaguered Marines. His decisive actions enabled Fox Company to gain a foothold into the city and evacuate a critically wounded Marine. For several hours, enemy forces engaged his tank section with withering rocket-propelled grenade fire until they were destroyed by accurate machine gun fire. Acting as the forward observer for an AC-130 gunship, Gunnery Sergeant Popaditch directed fire onto enemy targets effecting their annihilation. With complete disregard for his personal safety, he moved his tank forward to draw the enemy from their covered and concealed positions allowing the AC-130 to engage them. On the morning of 7 April, Gunnery Sergeant Popaditch was severely wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade blast while fighting insurgents. Blinded and deafened by the blast, he remained calm and ordered his crew to a medical evacuation site. By his bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Popaditch reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Nicholas A. Popaditch". Military Times Hall of Valor. Gannett Government Media. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Introduction to the Book Once a Marine by Nick "Gunny Pop" Popaditch". Weider History Network. 27 May 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. House of Representatives District 53 - Districtwide Results". California Secretary of State. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  4. ^ Allen G. Breed (30 September 2012). "2012 Elections Veterans: Tammy Duckworth Among Former Service Members Running For Public Office". Allen G. Breed. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Fiano, Cassy (August 3, 2010). "Interviewing Nick Popaditch, the 'Cigar Marine'". Hot Air. Archived from the original on 9 November 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  6. ^ "Gunnery Sgt. Nick Popaditch". Marines magazine. United States Marine Corps. August 12, 2010. p. 12. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch - The Cigar Marine - And Someone You Should Know". Blackfive. May 18, 2004. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  8. ^ Carter, Chelsea J. (April 10, 2006). "Marine's celebration cigar had dual meaning". Associated Press. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  9. ^ Oscar E. Gilbert (24 November 2015). Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Middle East. Casemate Publishers. ISBN 978-1-5040-2506-5. Nick Popaditch, recently promoted to Gunnery Sergeant, had volunteered to return to Iraq with C Company, 1st Tank and was now a platoon sergeant.
  10. ^ Carter, Chelsea J. (April 11, 2006). "'We regret to inform you'". Associated Press. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  11. ^ Carter, Chelsea J. (April 12, 2006). "Coming Home To Uncertainty". Associated Press. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  12. ^ May, Caroline (August 8, 2010). "Meet retired Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch, Republican candidate for California's 51st district". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  13. ^ Haskamp, Sgt Jennie E. (November 11, 2005). "Tanker receives Silver Star, shines at MCAGCC ball". United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  14. ^ Nola, LCpl Zachary J. (September 22, 2008). "Retired tank commander gives motivating leadership PME". The Observation Post. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms: United States Marine Corps.
  15. ^ Carter, Chelsea J. (April 13, 2006). "Wounded War Vet Starts Life Anew". Associated Press. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  16. ^ Todd Brown (19 September 2008). "Training Center Helps Wounded Veterans Work Toward Media Careers". MTV. Viacom International Inc. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  17. ^ Mel Cowan (1 February 2009). "Armed and Ready to Film". Trojan Family Magazine. University of Southern California. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  18. ^ "GySgt. Nick Popaditch". Combat Veterans For COMBAT VETERANS FOR CONGRESS PAC. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  19. ^ Brofer, Sgt Jennifer (September 2, 2009). "'Once a Marine' author tells inspirational memoir of combat, courage and recovery". 1st Marine Logistics Group. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton: United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  20. ^ Lubin, Andrew (December 2008). "Reviewer's Bookwatch: Andrew's Bookshelf". Midwest Book Review. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  21. ^ Loring, Robert B. "Book Review: Once a Marine". Leatherneck. Marine Corps Association. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  22. ^ "Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery". ForeWord. September 2008. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  23. ^ Conway, James T. (September 8, 2009). "ALMAR 029/09: Updates to Marine Corps Professional Reading List". Commandant of the Marine Corps. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  24. ^ Sarah Keeney (26 August 2011). "Once a Marine Added to the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Reading List". Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  25. ^ "Nick Popaditch (R)". Wall Street Journal. 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  26. ^ Gidget Fuentes (5 January 2013). "'Cigar Marine' offers advice to recruits". Marine Corps Times. San Diego. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  27. ^ Nathan Max (13 January 2013). "Want to be a Marine?". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  28. ^ Breed, Allen G.; Watson, Julie (8 January 2014). "Reversals in Hard-Won Iraqi City Vex Veterans". Associated Press. Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  29. ^ Marelius, John (November 10, 2009). "Decorated Marine to run for Filner's seat". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  30. ^ Reed, Chris (December 2, 2009). "Hot Seat: Nick Popaditch". KOGO. The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  31. ^ "VFW-PAC endorsement controversy". KUSI. October 20, 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  32. ^ "California Daily in Hot Water Over Editorial Cartoon". Editor & Publisher. July 13, 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  33. ^ Geraghty, Jim (July 12, 2010). "In Nick Popaditch vs. a Cartoonist, I Know Who I Bet On". National Review Online. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  34. ^ Perry, Tony (July 13, 2010). "Congressman calls cartoon of his opponent 'in poor taste'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  35. ^ "Congressional Candidate Nick Popoditch Calls Voting Allegations "Completely False"". KUSI. October 29, 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  36. ^ Jordan, Tom (November 1, 2010). "Nick Popaditch sets the record straight on Good Morning San Diego". KUSI. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  37. ^ "Popaditch on Filner ad: 'This is just who he is'". KUSI. November 1, 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  38. ^ John Fund (26 October 2010). "Read This Before Joining the Office Pool". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  39. ^ Hunter, Duncan (November 3, 2010). "Former Congressman Duncan Hunter Analyzes Election Results". KUSI. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  40. ^ Dadian, John (November 3, 2010). "Political Consultant John Dadian Analyzes Tuesday's Election Results". KUSI. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  41. ^ Jim Geraghty (12 January 2012). "Nick Popaditch, Back for More in 2012!". National Review Online. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  42. ^ Christopher Cadelago (4 December 2012). "Republican preparing to take on Rep. Susan Davis". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  43. ^ Miriam, Raftery (15 June 2012). "STATE AND FEDERAL RUN-OFF MATCHUPS FOR NOVEMBER". East County Magazine. Retrieved 16 June 2012. Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis won the primary handily in a two-candidate race, with 57.67% over Republican Nick Popaditch, who took 42.33%.
  44. ^ "PRIMARY 2012: Congressional Districts". San Francisco Chronicle. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 42.6
  45. ^ U-T San Diego Editorial Board (1 November 2012). "Vote for Popaditch in 53rd House district". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  46. ^ Campaign publicity photo
  • Kusmer, Ken (April 10, 2004). "Marine whose photo symbolized Baghdad's fall severely wounded in Fallujah fighting". Associated Press.
  • Carter, Chelsea J. (January 19, 2008). "Lights, camera and a different kind of action: Wounded Marines get training for film careers". Associated Press.
  • "Decorated, cigar-smoking Marine runs for Congress". Associated Press. November 12, 2009.

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