COUNCIL BLUFFS — Unlike most previous grand marshals in the Council Bluffs Veterans Day Parade, Nick Jedlicka is still a young man. But like the others, he has served his country honorably.
While serving in Afghanistan in 2011, Jedlicka and three other Midlanders were wounded in the roadside bomb explosion that killed Sgt. Brent Maher of Council Bluffs.
Jedlicka, now 32, joined the Iowa National Guard's 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry while still a student at Thomas Jefferson High School. (He graduated in 1997.)
“I wanted to join to serve my country,” he said. “My grandpa served, and I wanted to serve.”
For eight years, Jedlicka was not deployed. “After Sept. 11, you just kind of assumed it was going to come around,” he said.
In February 2004, Jedlicka was sent to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to work as a battalion ammunition chief. He ordered and tracked ammo, making sure it got shipped to forward observation bases and combat outposts.
“We would get occasional rocket attacks, but it really wasn't near as bad the first time as it was the second one,” he said.
He returned home in July 2005. In April 2007, Jedlicka was married. His wife, Penny, had given birth to their daughter, Kailey Rochholz, and they had a son, Noah, in 2008. “I knew the second deployment was coming,” he said. “We wanted to have our child before (the unit) left.”
In August 2010, Jedlicka was called up again. This time, he served as a platoon sergeant based at Combat Outpost Dand Patan, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.
“We got there in the winter months, so things slow down,” he said. “Once it started thawing in the spring, that's when the violence starts picking up.”
Jedlicka and others from his unit set out in a mounted combat patrol convoy on April 11, 2011, and headed further into Afghanistan.
“We were going to link up with other companies to do a big mission — just to coordinate our battalions, different companies,” he said.
Jedlicka, Maher, Spc. Dustin Morrison of New Market, Iowa, and Spc. Justin Christiansen of Nebraska City were in a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle leading the convoy when an improvised explosive device exploded beneath the vehicle.
Maher, who was in the gun turret, was killed, and the three others were injured. Hit in the face, Jedlicka suffered a brain hemorrhage, six spinal fractures, broken teeth, a broken eye socket and multiple lacerations.
“I think I'm fortunate — I don't remember the next four days,” he said. He was taken to Camp Salerno in Afghanistan, then Bagram, then Germany.
Finally, he was flown to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he remained hospitalized for four months.
“The first two months I was in Texas, I was in a wheelchair,” he said, “and back home, I couldn't even put my foot on the ground for another three months.”
Now a sergeant first class, he works full time for the Iowa National Guard.
He was transferred to Boone in April and is senior intelligence noncommissioned officer and assists in operations for the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 34th Infantry Division.
But on Saturday he will take on the role of grand marshal and lead the annual Veterans Day Parade, starting at 11 a.m. in downtown Council Bluffs.
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