Nick Wright - American Homecomings

Vet struggles with demons, finds solace in ‘my beautiful babies’

CHICO, Calif.  — As Nick Wright was pulled through the twists and turns of losing his mother at 15, a failed marriage, war, a severe brain injury and the ravages of post-traumatic stress disorder, he never lost touch with his sense of honor.

Wright joined the Marines at 18, and went on to volunteer for three frontline tours in Iraq.
With three children by his first wife while still in the service, Wright has had two more since getting remarried nearly three years ago. He is a devoted father and has made his family the center of his universe.

Struggling to regain his footing, Wright’s moral compass keeps him looking inward for the answers to his emotional problems from PTSD. “I blame no one but myself for what has happened,” he says.

Now the decorated combat soldier from Chico is adding his voice to “American Homecomings.” The experience is likely to expose the scars he desperately wants to keep from the outside world, but it’s one he’s willing to endure if it helps other veterans.

Wright, 29, left the battlefield five years ago with a traumatic brain injury and plenty of emotional baggage. Several months later he was back home.

Finding work was tough. “It seemed like there was an actual conspiracy against veterans,” he recalled.

Nick Wright kisses his wife Stephanie as he discusses his life as a civilian after serving in the armed services (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

A call to serve 

Married with a child on the way shortly after high school graduation, Wright decided the military was the best way to support his family. He said he wanted to go to Iraq for humanitarian reasons.

“Some said it (the war) was about oil, but I went because I wanted to help people,” Wright said. “I honestly thought that the situation needed to be taken care of.”

Wright said  he made an effort to learn something about the religious traditions and culture of the Iraqi people.

“Otherwise, I was afraid I might wind up harming someone for the wrong reason,” he said.

A combat injury midway through Wright’s third tour suddenly ended his battlefield career.

“We were riding in an LDS (a light armored vehicle) and we hit an improvised explosive device,” Wright recalled. “My driver and I were blown out the doors, then found ourselves in a two-hour firefight.”

Injuries from the explosion left Wright with a traumatic brain injury, and shrapnel in his body doctors decided not to remove.

After a brief hospital recovery, Wright said he opted to remain in Iraq and serve out his third tour.

“I was stubborn,” he said. “I felt I was still needed over there.”

Wright was given permission to recruit some fellow Marines and set up a shop at a forward base that specialized in changing tires on combat vehicles because nobody else was responsible for doing so.

The sense of honor that accompanied Wright on the battlefield followed him back home to Chico. Like a lot of combat veterans, Wright soon learned that much of society didn’t share his sense of altruism, nor appreciate the sacrifices of U.S. combat troops in conflicts that seemed almost irrelevant to their daily lives.

“What we’ve become is a very narcissistic society,” he said. “It’s all about me, me, me, and, of course, money.”

Nick Wright looks over his newest edition to the family, 3-month-old Marcus. (Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record)

 Anger surfaces

While still in Iraq, Wright said he felt his anger grow. “At the time I thought I knew exactly why,” he said.

“You’re constantly pissed because dirt bags out there are trying to kill you or blow you up. Of course you’re going to be freakin’ angry.”

His anger is just as palpable today and perhaps even more disturbing to him, because Wright knows he is largely reacting to the enemy within himself.

“Sometimes, I’m just sitting there, and I really get ticked off,” Wright said. “I get really loud. My reaction to some things is ridiculous and uncalled for.”

Injuries from the explosion sent Wright’s PTSD symptoms into overdrive, but he didn’t realize how severe the emotional wounds were until he got back home. Like so many soldiers serving in combat zones, he said, he simply “manned up” and tried to shake off the doubt and depression.

“When I was first diagnosed, I honestly didn’t think there was anything wrong with me,” he said. “I went to battle, I came back, and I know a little bit can change, but maybe a lot changed and I just didn’t notice it.”

While a lot of his postwar dreams ended with PTSD and his brain injury, Wright said one remains especially painful.

“My father was a cop in Redwood City for 30 years, and a homicide detective for 15,” Wright said. “Yes, I wanted to go into some kind of law enforcement, maybe even be a guard at Susanville (state prison). But when PTSD comes up in an interview about a job where you’re required to carry an automatic weapon, it’s over.”

Wright said his life for the last five years has had him “bunkering down” at home to avoid situations that may send his PTSD symptoms raging.

“Unless you have a good sense of discipline, that’s what usually happens,” Wright said. “You either wind up in jail, or beat the crap out of somebody because they looked at you wrong.

“I have a punching bag downstairs, and I have my beautiful babies. That keeps me pretty much in check.”

After months of  looking for work in fields from retail to manufacturing to truck driving, Wright finally caught a break and landed a good job in late March with a respected Chico company molding plastic parts.

It was his first job offer in two years.

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About Lee Ann Colacioppo

I am the Senior Editor/News at the Denver Post. I have been at The Post sincd 1999 in a variety of positions, including city editor and investigations editor. I previously worked at The Des Moines Register, Greenville, S.C., News and Kingsport, Tenn., Times-News. I'am a Denver native and graduate of Drake University in Des Moines. View all posts by Lee Ann Colacioppo →
  • Bobsue

    Nick, thank you for serving your country. You are a good man who has dealt with difficult realities . May you find peace from the physical and mental injuries of war. Sharing your experiences will help other vets find their footing.

  • Mark Troostwyk

    We need to do away with the all volunteer military. The draft needs to come back. That way as a society we can decide whether war is worth the price and not the us war machine. Thanks for your service has sadly become a cliche.  Most Americans are so detached from the wars that it pains me to think about it.  I wish this man well and glad he has a reason to get up every morning. 

  • Deasln75

    Thank you Mr. Wright for being the man you are. And also for going in harms way to protect our country. I wish you well.

  • R93003

    Mr. Wright,  You are a remarkable human being that has given ALL to your country.  Thank you for your services and dedication to the safety of our nation.  You have a lot to give to any employer and your love for your family is truly s blessing.  Good luck to you solider, in your new career.  God bless

  • R93003

    Mr. Wright,  You are a remarkable human being that has given ALL to your country.  Thank you for your services and dedication to the safety of our nation.  You have a lot to give to any employer and your love for your family is truly s blessing.  Good luck to you solider, in your new career.  God bless

  • R93003

    Mr. Wright,  You are a remarkable human being that has given ALL to your country.  Thank you for your services and dedication to the safety of our nation.  You have a lot to give to any employer and your love for your family is truly s blessing.  Good luck to you solider, in your new career.  God bless

  • R93003

    Mr. Wright,  You are a remarkable human being that has given ALL to your country.  Thank you for your services and dedication to the safety of our nation.  You have a lot to give to any employer and your love for your family is truly s blessing.  Good luck to you solider, in your new career.  God bless

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tee-InvitationLady/1594942188 Tee InvitationLady

    Your a great  man – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!!!! LOVE ur family – keep them
    close, hope you keep moving forward BIG TIME, YOU deserves it!
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tee-InvitationLady/1594942188 Tee InvitationLady

    Your a great  man – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!!!! LOVE ur family – keep them
    close, hope you keep moving forward BIG TIME, YOU deserves it!
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tee-InvitationLady/1594942188 Tee InvitationLady

    Your a great  man – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!!!! LOVE ur family – keep them
    close, hope you keep moving forward BIG TIME, YOU deserves it!
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tee-InvitationLady/1594942188 Tee InvitationLady

    Your a great  man – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!!!! LOVE ur family – keep them
    close, hope you keep moving forward BIG TIME, YOU deserves it!
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tee-InvitationLady/1594942188 Tee InvitationLady

    Your a great  man – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!!!! LOVE ur family – keep them
    close, hope you keep moving forward BIG TIME, YOU deserves it!
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tee-InvitationLady/1594942188 Tee InvitationLady

    Your a great  man – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!!!! LOVE ur family – keep them
    close, hope you keep moving forward BIG TIME, YOU deserves it!
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tee-InvitationLady/1594942188 Tee InvitationLady

    Your a great  man – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!!!! LOVE ur family – keep them
    close, hope you keep moving forward BIG TIME, YOU deserves it!
     

  • Ophelia550

    What a beautiful picture of baby and Daddy. Thank you for sharing.

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  • NADIA19392

    STAY  STRONG–YOU DID  A BRAVE AND WOUNDERFUL THING  FOR  FOR ALL OF US.  THANK YOU .  STICK CLOSE TO YOUR FAMILY AND YOU WILL BE  A  O K             

  • L.A.

    I am so proud of you Nick, hang in there.  You have a beautiful wife and baby and so much to live for.  Keep moving forward.  Ask for help if you need it, it is not a sign of weakness.  You have a lot to offer and thank god you are finally home.  You are a winner and there is a God in you. You have a purpose.  Write a book for us; do a blog; help us understand your struggle; bring attention to the suffering of vets and how everyone can help to do a better job.  We thank you for your service. We are waiting to hear more from you.  We, the american people, need you.

  • L.A.

    I am so proud of you Nick, hang in there.  You have a beautiful wife and baby and so much to live for.  Keep moving forward.  Ask for help if you need it, it is not a sign of weakness.  You have a lot to offer and thank god you are finally home.  You are a winner and there is a God in you. You have a purpose.  Write a book for us; do a blog; help us understand your struggle; bring attention to the suffering of vets and how everyone can help to do a better job.  We thank you for your service. We are waiting to hear more from you.  We, the american people, need you.

  • Hbeb1024

    hey nick hang in there brother.. i am a retired 1st sgt in the USMC. I too suffer from ptsd.. continue to work on you my brother… semper fi….devil dog 2nd lar 2 mar div destroyers all the way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1180066567 Christopher O’Brien

    Nick, all my best wishes to you – you have earned our support and gratitude. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1180066567 Christopher O’Brien

    Nick, all my best wishes to you – you have earned our support and gratitude. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1180066567 Christopher O’Brien

    Nick, all my best wishes to you – you have earned our support and gratitude. 

  • Ginagonzalves

    thank you nick, for sharing your story with us.. and thank you for your service to our country… wishing you and your family all the best.. truely

  • Anonymous

    “I am so proud of you Nick…”
    GIVE me a break.

    Dude is 29, has a limited education, living off PTSD disasbility payments for four years of service and NOW has now has 4 kids 10 years of age and yonger.
    DUDE, no wonder you are mad!!
     You are done. Le’t be real. Your money will go for all those kids buddy.

    Best to get bacck in school, on the serious tip, or you will wind up being just another rageful working-class Tea partier, mad art the world and “blaming” all those other folks for YOUR issues.
    Oh, you can’t be Tea Partier based on your AI wife, so
     The next fight” is for YOUR FREE education.

    Take advantage of it, and cut your tubes. “My hero.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kathy-Lake/100000172281653 Kathy Lake

      You may want to go back to school yourself.  Here’s a little math problem for you. 

      He joined the USMC at 18, is now 29 and has been out for 5 years.  That would be a 6 year tour of duty, not 4.  Now, let’s put that into perspective.  Have you EVER been shot at?  Even once?  Have you ever put your life in the hands of another?  Have you ever had anyone put their life in your hands?  Have you ever had a purpose bigger than yourself?  This guy, and many like him, has done all this.  You may want to put your video game down now and try to do something with your life. 

    • momfrmabv

       Wow, Louis, you’ve really figured it all out, huh?  No one respects you whatsoever.  However, this guy and everyone willing to sacrifice everything for me, who they have never met, own my respect and gratitude.  Nothing he has lost is wasted.  It’s precious.  There is more out there than what you know, Louis.

    • me

       Wow, I think you spelled your name wrong. You sound more like LOSER!! You have no clue what the war does to men and women that serve. They all go in with a purpose and a dream of making this world a better place. Today we will bury my neighbor, a veteran who served our country. On one mission he went out with 1500 came back with 700. Watched friends die in his arms, tried his best to save women and children from the certain death. The nightmares came frequently , then as he grew older, his mind went bad, day and night.  We will say Semper Fi today as we lay his weary scarred body and mind to rest. He is at peace. I challenge you Mr. Loser to sit down with a veteran and really listen to why he went to war, what he saw, and what it’s like to sleep at night and live with the demons that seldom rest. You are a fool that has opened his mouth foolishly, showed the world that you are truly and heartless person. May Karma bite you where it hurts the most.

    • Dawn

       I’d like to see you do the same.  Our country has been built by generations of military preserving and defining freedom, and as a child of a Vietnam Vet, exposed to Agent Orange during his two tours, is now diagnosed with Alzheimers, this is the price my family pays, as will Nick’s family with his PTSD and his difficulty finding a job.

       I am disgusted by your post, and saddened that more people aren’t helping vets find jobs, nor is our government giving out tax breaks that employ our heroes.

      Thank you Nick, revel in the beauty of your happy family.

    • 70%disabledvetwithPTSD

      Wow! You must be a true patriot or they type that sits on his rear and hides behind the screen trying to bad mouth people while feeling tough. Like others pointed out, first your math sucks as does your spelling and Second be man enough that if you are going to talk trash to put your full name in your posting so you and your opinions can be dealt with appropriately….

  • Lyle

    Stop having kids!!!

  • Carrie

    thank you for all you have done and all the sacrafices you and your family have made for the rest of us.

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