Helping Veterans Get from the Front Line to the Finish Line

Nico Marcolongo
(left to right) KPBS General Manager Tom Karlo (left) and National Conflict Resolution Center Executive Director Steve Dinkin (right) honor Nico Marcolongo with the Community Hero Award for strengthening veterans’ health.

The military is embedded in San Diego’s rich history.

According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 200,000 veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces and have re-integrated back into San Diego’s communities. Many of these San Diegans face difficulties when readjusting to life after deployment and need support from the community upon return.

That’s just what Community Hero Nico Marcolongo is committed to doing.

Nico, a former Marine Corps Officer who saw two deployments in Iraq, has been supporting veterans’ health through his work as senior program manager for Operation Rebound at the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

In his role, Nico strengthens the mental and physical well-being of veterans, military personnel and first responders with permanent physical injuries by providing them opportunities to use sports and fitness to re-integrate into our communities. To date, Operation Rebound and Nico have helped more than 2,700 veterans in San Diego.

Strengthening Dialogue

Nico’s story and the topic of veterans’ health was the focus of the latest KPBS and National Conflict Resolution Center Community Conversation on March 25.

Supported by The San Diego Foundation, the event shined a light on what community members from all backgrounds and professions can do to better support servicemembers returning home.

As Nico explained during his interview with former ABC military reporter Bob Lawrence, “One of the biggest challenges veterans face is the feeling of isolation upon reintegrating into society. It is imperative that we as a society and fellow citizens help re-integrate our veterans.”

Operation Rebound is one of the many San Diego organizations that brings hope and opportunity to veterans. Through sports, Nico is able to help injured servicemembers do what they never thought possible, all the while feeling valued and part of a larger team.

“When I returned from duty, I realized my experiences had a deep and lasting impact on my life,” shared Nico. “Once I finally raised my hand and asked for help personally, I started to realize just how many others might be facing the same challenges as me.”

During the event, Nico and other community leaders emphasized the importance of intimate, honest conversation about veterans. Whether you are a veteran or a civilian, we all have a role to play in supporting those who serve our country.

As Nico declared:  “We want to make sure all our veterans get from the front line to the finish line.”.

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