Dickant receives Purple Heart
By Joseph Bell
Ridgway, Pa. – Nicolas Dickant of Ridgway Township was recently awarded a Purple Heart for injuries suffered in 2011 while on a mission in Afghanistan.
Members of the United States Marine Corps were on hand Friday afternoon for the ceremony alongside various Dickant family members, many of whom have served the country in various branches of the military.
"With my family, a lot of us have a military background, cousins, my grandfathers, uncles, so it just seemed to be the thing to do," he said. "I always knew I wanted to do it."
Nick is a 2008 graduate of the Ridgway Area High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines and attended boot camp in Parris Island, S.C. before School of Infantry [SOI] training in North Carolina. Nick then attended motor transport school in Missouri to be trained as a motor transport operator.
He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for four years, and also did other training in California as well.
"It's just the day to day military life, getting up early, PT and training," he said.
Nick, who was a Lance Corporal with the Marines, served the country on two tours, one in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait and Iraq.
While the names and faces of the military change over time, Nick will never forget one date in particular: June 28, 2011.
"It was cut and dry as we were on a recovery mission and our unit was tasked with going out and recovering a vehicle that was struck by an IED [improvised explosive device]," he said. "My vehicle also was struck by an IED, I was driving, and when it happened I wasn't knocked unconscious but I was pretty messed up. The first thing I thought was, 'Oh great, now we failed our mission.' We were medically evacuated to Camp Leatherneck and received treatment and care there."
Nick was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and received care at Camp Leatherneck, a 1,600 acre U.S. Marine Corps base located in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The site is located mostly in Washir District and is conjoined with Camp Bastion, the main British military base in Afghanistan.
Coincidentally, Nick was in an IED attack four days earlier on June 24, 2011, but neither he or his comrades suffered any injuries.
Captain Christopher Castagnetti and 1st Sergeant Nathaniel Bradley of the Marines were at the Dickant homestead along Fairmont Road in Ridgway Township, just off Montmorenci Road [state route 948] to present Nick with the military honor.
They conducted a brief ceremony at the home in front of family and friends.
Those in attendance included his parents, Tim and Jamie Dickant; his sister, Taylor Dickant; his grandfather, James Russell, a retired Navy Machinist 3rd Class having served from 1960-1963; his grandfather, John Dickant Sr., a retired Air Force Airman 1st Class having served from 1951 to 1955; his uncle, John Dickant Jr., a retired Navy Radioman 3rd Class having served from 1975-1979; his uncle, Joseph Dickant Sr., a Private serving in the National Guard from 1980-1985; and his cousin, Dustin Dickant, a retired Navy Seabee.
Members who served in the military who were unable to attend include Nick's brother, Alex Dickant, a Lance Corporal currently serving in the Marines-- he enlisted in 2011 and is currently in California doing cold weather training and was unable to attend; Joseph Dickant Jr., an E4 Seabee with the Navy; and his deceased great-grandfather, Richard Weisenfluh who was with the Army Air Forces during World War II, and was a prisoner of war for seven months.
Military friends who attended were Lance Corporal Conor Beck, a Marine enlisted from 2009 to 2013 who served with Nick in Afghanistan and was with him during the IED explosion-- Beck also received a Purple Heart; Marine Corporal Mike Assalone who also served in Afghanistan; Fred Peters, a retired Air Force Airman 1st Class having served from 1962-1966; and Jerry Guidice, a Marine veteran during the Vietnam War.
Other family include Nick's grandmothers, Linda Russell and Carol Dickant; his aunts, Sally Jo Dickant and Deb Aiello; cousins Andy Aiello, Meghan Dickant, and Amanda Aiello; and a family friend, Shelly Caggiano.
"I'm moving on with my life, working in the oil and gas field, and having a baby on the way," Nick said as he looks ahead to the future. "Looking forward to seeing that little guy get here and just staying in the area."