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The Oldest US Army Soldier Fighting in Afghanistan
Is Sgt. Nicholas, age 59.
Many of his equals are retired, living the good life. Mr. Nicholas is the oldest of 6000 soldiers in the 25th Infantry Division in eastern Afghanistan. He was not always in the Army, he got out after the Vietnam war in 1978. Got married and went back to college and graduated in 1986 in Pediatric medicine and began his own practice. It could have easily ended there, yet, he continued to long for military service. In 1991, he tried to re-enlist in the Marines, which said no. He tried again after 9\11. They said no, again. In 2004, at age 52, he tried the US Army Reserve, which said yes. Once in, he signed up for Psychological Ops because it gave him a chance to go to war, which soon came in 2005. He went in combat at Afghanistan's notorious, Kornegal and Pech Valleys. After the tour ended, the Army unit returned to civilian life and he did his practice making house calls. Another chance came later, this time north of Baghdad in Iraq, he spent almost a year there. There was another brief period of being home with his family. Yet, he volunteered again last year and now is in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, a very dangerous place and one he does not want his son to go to, who is joining the Army. His wife says that her husband finds "youth" in the military and it makes him feel 19 again.
His commander is 19 years younger, age 40, is Lt. Col. Tuley. Tuley finds Mr. Nicholas' age a benefit in Afghanistan where age is valued and not youth when talking with locals. The older face is more trustful than a clean shaven young officer. Nicholas tries to persuade the elders of Afghanistan tribes to side with the government and not the Taliban. It seems to work.
Nicholas' first war was in Vietnam, he was 19 or so, but he was based on a aircraft carrier, which disappointed him. Then, he was assigned to US Embassy and was there during the ending in 1975. He was on the second to last helicopter leaving the rooftop in a scene he will ever forget.
The end will once and for all come next year when he turns 60. The Army will tell him he must leave unless he becomes a officer in the medical corps, which will allow him to remain a few more years.