Mar 15, 2016 3:56 PM
As a Corpsman, Nicholas Tolentino spent 14 years in the U.S. Navy.
During that time, he performed multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though Nicolas made it out alive, he wears the deep scars of Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Now he’s helping to battle against the military’s high rate of suicides.
“I’ve had numerous friends take their own lives because they did struggle and couldn’t get the help they needed," he said. "Whether pride, their own demons, they succumbed and they’re not here."
Nicholas travels around the state and shares his story with other veterans, in hopes of inspiring them to reach out for help.
“It gives a face to the issue," he said. "I say ‘Hey this is me and I have PTSD, and these are some of the challenges I face.'"
Nicholas is also serving on the State Legislative Commission on PTSD, telling his painful story to legislators, and congressional leaders. He’s hoping to help erase the stigma surrounding PTSD and TBI.
“Part of the shame is that you’re trained to be ten feet tall and bullet proof," he explained. "You’re trained to let nothing get you. Then you come home and you have nightmares and then you think this shouldn’t be happening to me. Now I have to admit weakness to someone else to just get help."
Fellow veteran, Art Devine said it’s wonderful that the American Red Cross, NH Chapter is recognizing Nicholas as an Everyday Hero.
“There is no question that Nick is a hero," Devine said. "He didn’t ask for a purple heart. He made it back. The ones who didn’t are the heroes.”
Nicholas, who is very uncomfortable with the label “hero” is now studying to become a nurse practitioner at the University of New Hampshire.
“If I can enlighten others and if my talking about it [PTSD and TBI] brings a face to it, It’s not being a hero. It’s doing the right thing,” said Nicholas.
Nicholas is among the Everyday Heroes being recognized by the American Red Cross at an awards ceremony Wednesday, March 16 at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.
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