In 2005, Evan Nida enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps with the intention of fighting for his country. Instead, he fought for his life in a surgical intensive care unit after 10 days of boot camp.
Both of Evan’s parents served in the U.S. Marine Corps, so he adapted to the lifestyle and handling orders. He recalled sitting in class during his freshmen year in high school on Sept. 11, 2001, and video of the twin towers falling seemed to be on repeat.
“That had me scared to my wits,” Evan relayed.
The terrorists' attacks of 2001 somewhat fueled his passion for serving his country. Surprisingly, his family was not in favor of him joining the military even though it was their lifestyle.
“I know deep down, even though everyone was saying no, there was a reason I had to do this. I don’t know why. I just have to. This is for my country,” Evan assured.
He arrived at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego on Sept. 19, 2005. Ten days later, he was in the hospital.
His mother, Erin, received a phone call from doctors saying, “We don’t expect him to live. He is in critical and an unstable condition. He’s in a coma. We don’t expect him to live for many more hours.”
Erin was confident in her son’s strength.
Erin and her husband, Jiles, flew to California that evening. Evan was in a coma for eight days, was transferred to surgical intensive care for three days and in the critical care unit for three weeks. He spent 13 months in a rehabilitation hospital after that.
When Evan woke up from the coma, he explained that his body wholly restarted — “I didn’t remember anything or even who I was.”
His mindset going into boot camp was to “protect my country and everybody that’s in it. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they have done.” He did not imagine he would have to protect himself from the men on his side.
Evan was allegedly hit in the back of the head and tossed off of a three-story building, hitting a cement driveway. He lost 10 percent of his brain, and 20 percent does not function.
“His collarbone broke, his lung collapsed, and his head hit a curb, and his brain shot out of his skull,” Erin bluntly explained. “He tore the maniglie artery. He lost seven pints of blood in six minutes.”
When putting the severity of the fall in perspective, Jiles pointed out the 1-inch scar on the back of Evan’s head.
“That’s what is called a blunt force trauma injury where he was — we think knocked unconscious and lugged to the top of his barracks where two people tossed him off,” Erin interjected.
Jiles recalled Evan’s doctor explaining how the laceration to the back of the head was not related to the 40-foot fall.
Erin disclosed that two of Evan’s drill instructors were accused and convicted of hazing and abusing more than 200 recruits the year after “the fall.” She said in the investigations recruits had similar scars on the back of their heads from being hit in the head by metal flashlights.
Evan recalled, “Only the drill instructors were able to carry metal flashlights. Because I remember my first night there doing fire guard duty and I was given a plastic one.”
In an Associated Press article, "Marine Drill Sergeant Charged With 225 Counts of Abusing Recruits," it explains how drill instructors were accused of abusing recruits. One description described recruits struck by "heavy flashlights."
The command automatically investigated the situation, and NCIS got involved. The 18-day investigation closed as a “probable attempt of suicide.”
FIGHTING VETERAN AFFAIRS
Even after the fall and dealing with the United States Department of Veteran Affairs to fight for his benefits, Evan remained compassionate. Before he enlisted he lent aid after Hurricane Katrina and now focuses on helping stray dogs, even though he’s allergic.
It took years arguing with the VA to get what was only necessary. The VA initially gave him a 10-percent disability rating, “and I found quite a bit of corruption on the compensation and pension board. I even found a physician's assistant posing as a doctor,” Erin elaborated.
Evan’s records were reviewed several times, and he was finally granted over 100 percent disability rating.
“When we got on the final Marine Corps board when we got the letter it said in really, really fine print at the bottom it said, ‘snm, subjects name marine injury was not of his cause.,’” Jiles relayed.
The letter was the only time when the U.S. Marines Corps took some accountability for the situation.
“When someone gets injured whether it be in the boot camp or over in Iraq, the VA and the military will do the least that they can get by with,” Jiles emphasized.
THE ENDLESS ROAD TO RECOVERY
Evan’s opinion of the military today is corrupt. “But, it’s more about hope,” Evan continued.
Evan and his whole family look at what happened and how he survived. The doctors did not think he would survive, let alone walk.
The list of medications and conditions Evan deals with on a daily basis is long, but for the most part, his spirits are high.
He is also prone to seizures, was diagnosed with epilepsy, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, cataracts, glaucoma in his right eye, atropine on his right side of his body, and both of his knees were operated on. Evan then disclosed he has migraines all day, every day. At that point, Evan got off the couch and shut the front door to eliminate natural light coming in. A small window on the front door was even covered.
He has anger and deals with posttraumatic stress. His mother pointed at the wall behind the couch in his living room. The sheetrock had a hole big enough for a fist.
He admitted to not having an episode in about a year.
“Strangely enough, pretty much every part of my master bedroom that has holes in it is me venting,” Evan explained.
Jiles disclosed that Evan has the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old.
“I’ll be 32 this year, so the only way I really get myself out of any of those is playing games, driving or watching one of my hundred movies,” Evan said in high spirits.
His favorite genres are horror, action, comedy, but slasher films are his go-to.
Evan and both of his parents had a messaged they delivered. Erin was quick to say, “I thank God every day for giving people the ability to hope.” She then referenced a sign she saw at the critical care unit that read, “Where there’s hope, there’s breath.”
Jiles said, “I think overall you have to want to come out of where he was at, and he did not give up the will to live. And, a lot of people in his initial biroute group close to him have passed on shortly after leaving.”
“Once you die, it brings a whole new perspective,” Evan concluded. “Life is to live. Not for yourself but for anyone you can. You have to find something stronger in life to hold onto."
This story would not have been able to be told without the help of Toby and Ray Rannigan. Together they run Texas Vets Roofing & Remodeling. In honor of Memorial Day, they wanted to help a veteran get a new roof. Ray briefly spoke with Evan and immediately knew the business could do the job at no cost. It was not until the interview with the Daily Light until they heard the full story about “the fall.”
At the end of the interview, Ray told Evan, “You are a veteran in my eyes, and in my eyes, you deserve a roof more than anyone out there, and that’s what you’re going to get.”
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450