DOWNEY – “The Iraq War began in 2003 and that motivated me” states Nick Velez about his reason to join the United States Marine Corps. Nick’s military interest began when at the age of 15; a school counselor recommended him for the “Devil Pups” program which is essentially a “mini boot camp”. In this program, students go through different challenges and learn discipline and teamwork through military-style education. After completing the program, Velez was hooked on the discipline and his interest in joining the Marine Corps was thriving.
At the age of 18, Velez enlisted into the Marines. Nick served from 2005-2009 as an 0311 Infantry Rifleman. While serving in Iraq, Nick realized that keeping in communication with his family was going to be strenuous. According to Nick, the only form of contact he had with his family was through letters.
“Mail call was once every two weeks if you were lucky,” he says.
Not much interested in the California beaches before enlistment, Nick mentions it’s what he missed most about home. The feeling of longing for home was at times overwhelming, knowing that he was in a country where simply going to the beach wasn’t an option.
For Nick, the difficult thing about the transition from serving to civilian life is “training your mind to be a warrior only to adjust back” from that. Nick also mentions that losing his brothers in arms was an extreme cost for him.
Fast forward five years, Nick is still “adjusting” to civilian life. When the question was raised on whether or not he would relive the same experience of his time served, he replied with a simple “yes.” “I miss the smell of gunpowder and being a Marine,” he says.
Nick is currently the co-owner of Bastards sports bar in Downey. The restaurant is named after the United States Marine Corps, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines nicknamed the “Magnificent Bastards.” The bar is truly a tribute to them.
This Saturday, Aug. 23, Bastards will be hosting a fundraiser benefiting Eduardo Carrillo’s family to help with his funeral expenses. Carrillo served with the Marine Corps for eight years and had a friendship with Velez. The event will also help “Howard’s Road to Recovery” as proceeds will benefit Howie Sackett’s (a former Marine) father Howard Senior who is recovering from a motorcycle accident.
All donations made will help with his medical expenses. This event will be taking place at Bastards from 2 p.m. to closing.
Nick’s plans for the future include continuing the operation of Bastards as well as the development of his own non-profit organization- “Save the Brave.” The goal of this organization is to assist Veterans with their VA claims and GI Bill as well as serving as a comfort and counsel agent to the veterans in whatever way they can.
Nick’s advice for anyone considering joining the military is to “give it your best, regardless of what you do. Once you start, finish it.”
Nick describes his bond with his Marine Corps brothers as being “bigger than your country...” once you’re out there “it’s for your brothers.”
“Coming Home: A Veteran’s Story” is a project between the Living Tree Foundation and the Downey Patriot, with the goal of telling the stories of local veterans. If you are interested in telling your story, contact Julie Garcia at (562) 884-8683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: Aug. 21, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 19