Nick Pilozzi spent his life planning for a military career. He went through basic training, advanced infantry training, and was ready for his first deployment to Afghanistan.
Nick was on the ground in Afghanistan for just four months - when the chopper he and his comrades were on crashed in the side of a mountain. He says instinct told him to jump out the back when the helicopter's nose dipped. Nick was the only one of eleven to survive.
That crash left Nick with a badly wounded knee, and the grief of losing close friends. He helped recover their bodies - and an American flag from the wreckage. In a personal vow to honor the memory of his comrades, he redeployed on a recounted reconnaissance mission deep in enemy territory.
He was fired upon by a rocket propelled grenade - that sprayed his entire right side with shrapnel. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and spent a year in the Wounded Warrior Unit at Fort Drum. He was honored for his bravery and service with several accolades - notably the purple heart, and the army commendation and good conduct medals.
Nick eventually returned home to Western New York a war hero, and bought his first home last summer. He was mowing his lawn when his injured knee gave out. Nick fell and his foot slipped under the lawnmower. Nick lost his left foot.
Alone, in his yard, he recalled his years of combat training. He managed to wrap his foot and call for help.
Since that day, Nick has endured three surgeries and is waiting for a prosthetic. He uses a cane and wheelchair to move around. And he's now a full-time student working toward the goal of becoming a mental health counselor for combat veterans.
But not a day goes by when he doesn't think of his fellow soldiers still fighting in Afghanistan.
The community is now coming together to help Nick. He needs a first floor bedroom in his home. So a benefit is being held in his honor on April 21st at 4:00pm at the American Legion on Main Street in Tonawanda.