Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Lavery has three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Bronze Star with Valor for heroism in combat. Lavery has received the James E. Cotter Courage Award from Boston College High School, where he played football as a strong safety. He was also inducted into the Military Alumni Hall of Fame at his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he was an outside linebacker. He's about to be deployed for the fifth time, despite having lost his right leg.
The 35-year-old Green Beret weapons sergeant’s story is one of determination, courage and selflessness. Even before his right leg was shattered in Afghanistan in 2013, Lavery took shrapnel in his shoulder from a rocket-propelled grenade during his first deployment in 2011.
“It blew a lemon-sized hole out of my right shoulder,” he says. He refused to be evacuated for medical care, instead plugging the wound with some gauze. Finally, he was sent to Bagram Air Base to be patched up.
One month later, he was hit by a bullet to the face chasing down an insurgent.
Then, in 2013, his team was training local forces when an Afghan police officer opened fire with a machine gun. Although Lavery hit the ground, a young soldier next to him froze. Lavery put himself between the soldier and the gunfire, and dragged him to safety.
That’s when Lavery was hit, several times, in the leg. He knew his femoral artery had been severed and he’d soon bleed out, so he applied a tourniquet from his kit. He had 20 surgeries at Bagram, and several more at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Lavery refused a medical retirement.
In January, he will deploy once again. In the meantime, he’s pursuing his master’s degree at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and spending time with his wife, Army Master Sgt. Toni Lavery, and their 6-month-old baby boy.