U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Zachary Dyer

During the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s first exercise of the 2017-2018 deployment, Capt. Patrick Nugent, the executive officer of Company C., Battalion Landing Team 1/5, 15th MEU was severely injured while his platoon was conducting live-fire marksmanship training at the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), on the Island of Hawaii.

Capt. Nugent was standing downrange of a platoon conducting a live-fire exercise when a bullet ricocheted, striking him in the lower back. Immediately upon impact, the company’s platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Shane Newby sprinted to Nugent to provide medical aid.

Also instrumental in saving Nugent’s life were Petty Officers 3rd Class Andrew Fonticiella and Beau Yavor, both hospital corpsmen. But Nugent’s initial prognosis was not good.

Following several surgeries to stabilize his condition, Capt. Nugent awakened thinking that he was paralyzed, but he began to regain feeling in both legs. After being transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Nugent underwent a number of surgeries that included repairing the nerve damage in his leg.

With the possibility of returning to his Marines, Nugent was motivated more than ever to meet the requirements to be medically cleared to return to his company. Following his final surgery in December, 2017, and completion of physical therapy, Nugent was medically cleared to return to his unit.

“The last time they saw me, I was getting loaded onto a helicopter, and now for them to see me recovering six months later and coming home with them to California was huge,” said Nugent.

“Seeing him walk on board USS America (LHA 6) was one of the most incredible things I have observed in my career,” said Lt. Col. Brendan Sullivan, BLT 1/5 commanding officer. “Through strength of will and character, this young man had overcome many obstacles, some which seemed insurmountable. I was incredibly proud of him. More importantly, I felt so fortunate to have an officer in BLT 1/5 who was an unmistakable and living example of how Marines respond to adversity.”