Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Badly wounded by explosive in Afghanistan, Plant High graduate begins recovery

TAMPA — The morning after Mary Nicholson helped organize a church reception for the family of an Army lieutenant killed in Afghanistan, a Marine detail brought devastating news to her own doorstep.

Her 22-year-old son, Cpl. Michael Nicholson, had lost both legs and an arm to a blast from a hidden explosive in Afghanistan.

By that afternoon, July 6, a military ministry that Mary Nicholson had helped create at Christ the King Catholic Church to support families of men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq was at work on her son's behalf. More than 200 people gathered that day to pray for his recovery.

"It's a hard story," said the Rev. David Toups, pastor of Christ the King, "but it's the strength and beauty of people."

Ten days before he was wounded, Michael Nicholson, a 2007 Plant High graduate, had called the priest from Afghanistan.

One of Nicholson's best friends had been killed, Toups said. "He said he just had to talk to somebody."

Then Wednesday a week ago, Toups learned of Nicholson's injury. Toups got the word out to parishioners, who gathered at the church to pray that afternoon.

Nicholson is recovering at the Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington, D.C. His family arrived in Maryland on Monday and could not be reached for comment.

On Wednesday, Nicholson endured seven hours of surgery, Mary Nicholson wrote in a blog on the Caring Bridge website. She said he has several surgeries ahead of him and that the next few weeks are critical because his body is vulnerable to infection.

She described, too, her reunion with her son Monday. He could not talk initially, but had tears in his eyes when he saw his family.

"We were so pleased to see our Michael as he looked so good to us!" Mary Nicholson wrote. "His color was good, and he was happy to see us. Within the hour they had removed the ventilator and he responded well. This is a big yet baby step into his recovery."

Michael Nicholson had attended Christ the King's school. His parents, John and Mary, are among the parish's most active members.

Toups said the military ministry was "Mary's little brainchild" because MacDill Air Force Base, home of the U.S. Central Command, has brought many military families into the South Tampa parish.

One of those families recently lost a son — Army Lt. Dimitri A. del Castillo, a West Point graduate killed in Afghanistan.

A Mass for del Castillo was celebrated July 5. Mary Nicholson and two other "military moms" hosted the reception for mourners afterward.

"Less than 24 hours, she was notified about Michael," Toups said.

Michael Nicholson joined the Marines in June 2008, a year after he graduated from Plant, according to his Facebook page. He worked at Whaley's Market and played soccer in high school.

In high school, he had a reputation as an easygoing, respectful student, former Plant High principal Eric Bergholm said.

"He's a really nice kid, one of those kids with a perpetual smile on his face," Bergholm said.

On Wednesday, Mary Nicholson wrote in the blog that her son was in a lot of pain but able to speak in a raspy voice.

"Before we left his room tonight I said 'I love you, Michael' and he responded 'I love you too'!" his mother wrote. "We have our Michael home and for that we are so very grateful!"

Reach John Barry at or (813) 226-3383. Reach Jodie Tillman at or (813) 226-3374.

Badly wounded by explosive in Afghanistan, Plant High graduate begins recovery 07/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 11:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. William March: Capin and Cruz appear destined for District 1 race

    Local Government

    Tampa City Council member Yolie Capin and state Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, appear headed for a primary in the District 1 County Commission race, which has Democrats worried they'll once again have strong candidates competing against each other in primaries, to the detriment of their chances against Republicans.

    Times Correspondent William March
  2. Watch: Gorilla dances like a 'maniac' in kiddie pool


    Zola, a gorilla who resides at the Dallas Zoo, has gone viral after showing off his dance moves.
  3. Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention


    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
  4. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault


    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  5. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]