Nicholas Wilt—November 2005 Shipment Honoree
Marine Lance Cpl., 23, of Tampa, Fla.; assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; killed Sept. 3, 2004 by enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq.
Mother, Wife Remember Marine as Quiet Hero Ready for DutySource: Michael Van Sickler, St. Petersburg Times, September 7, 2004
In a cigar box she stores in a living room cabinet, Rebecca Wilt keeps dozens of letters her son, Nicholas, wrote while serving in Iraq. Her favorite was written April 21, 2003, after Baghdad seemed under control and friendly Iraqis embraced the American troops.
“Looking at their faces was the most amazing experience in my life so far,” he printed carefully in black ink. “I once doubted joining the Marine Corps, and I used to think it was the worst decision I’ve ever made, but now I’d do it all over again.”
In his second tour of duty in Iraq, 23-year-old Lance Cpl. Nicholas Wilt was killed Friday when a bomb exploded near the Syrian border. “He was such a great human being,” said Rebecca Wilt as she thumbed through his letters. “It was an honor being his mother.”
Inspired after 9/11 to enlist, Wilt was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq war. But he left much behind at home, including plans of starting a family with his new wife, Mercedes.
As he sat in his kitchen Monday, Wilt’s father-in-law wondered why men like Wilt keep returning to the war. “He was one of the first ones in Iraq, why does he have to go back?” said Richard Maestrelli. “He already faced down danger once. I don’t think it’s right he’s forced to do it a second time.”
He was ready to go back a third time if needed, said Mercedes Wilt. Doing more than others was something Wilt always did, she said. He wanted to serve his country. And after he finished his four-year hitch, he told her, he would dedicate his life to making her happy.
A graduate of Tampa Catholic High School, Wilt met Mercedes in the spring of 2001 at a friend’s party. “The world just melted away and we talked for hours that night,” Mercedes Wilt said. They weren’t dating long before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. After that, Wilt talked about joining the Marines. “The night I told him I loved him was the same night he told me he was a Marine,” she said. “I was petrified. I realized the man I was in love with was going to fight a war.”
Wilt was among the first U.S. troops to invade Iraq. He called once on a reporter’s cell phone to tell Mercedes about one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. He marveled at the mammoth pools and the gold toilet seats.
A machine gunner on a Hummer that scouted for tanks, Wilt captured much of what he saw in letters to family and friends. In April 2003, he wrote about seeing a Marine shoot an Iraqi who had been shooting at them.
“But in the process, another Iraqi was standing near the incident and was accidentally shot twice,” Wilt wrote. “While the Marines were securing the street, the innocent man that was shot came up to the Marine who shot him and told him, “Thank you for killing that man and thank you for everything you’ve done.’ Then he said, “now I go to hospital.’ Can you imagine that?”
Mercedes Wilt keeps his letters in a binder notebook. “I’d get a letter just about every day,” she said.
When Wilt finished his first tour of duty in October 2003, he and Mercedes had a wedding with all of their friends and family. They had their honeymoon in Mexico, then moved to a base in California. By the end of August, Wilt was deployed again. This time, Mercedes Wilt said, she was filled with dread. “The whole week before he left, I was a baby,” she said.
On their last night, they ate a home cooked lasagna dinner and listened to a CD of love songs. “We just talked and cried,” Mercedes Wilt said. As they hugged goodbye the next morning, Wilt told her she meant everything to him. “I’m glad we at least got an official goodbye,” she said. “I at least have that.”
In the next few days, Mercedes said she expects to get his final letter, which he wrote during the plane ride to Kuwait. He called on Thursday, asking if she was okay. She said she was feeling blue and he wanted to cheer her up.
Now, she said she doesn’t know what to feel. “I’m hurt, I’m numb, I’m just outraged,” she said. “They robbed me of my life with him, my soul mate, the man I wanted to have children with. I pray to God every night hoping I’m pregnant so I can see his face again.”
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Nicholas during the month of November 2005 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Nicholas’s family and friends today and in the years to come.