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Nader Elguindi - Persistence Pays Off


LT Nader Elguindi is a former Submarine Force Officer. His story is one which would inspire many lesser Men to wonder if the pain is worth it.

Nader was born in Essex, England in 1971. His parents moved to the United States where he graduated from Appalachian State University graduating in 1992 and went to Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI. His nuclear propulsion program interview was with ADM Bruce Demars for the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Nader was assigned to his first (and only, as it turned out) submarine, the USS Birmingham (SSN-695) homeported in Pearl Harbor in 1994. He performed various junior officer and division officer duties until he was badly hurt in a motorcycle accident, effectively severing both his legs and severely damaging his arm.

And yet, Nader went on to qualify in submarines, obtaining his "gold dolphins" while he was on crutches following one of many reconstructive and rehabilitative surgeries he underwent in a 14 month period. The story of how he did so, is a good one.

Nader has written a book, the proceeds of which go to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which supports our wounded veterans, and he also volunteers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as a peer-visitor. You can read his story and obtain his book here.

Nader says his message is you must face the adversity in your life when making your choices and decisions. Perseverance pays off. Read the rest in his interview:

1. Where and when were you born?

Essex, England; January 18, 1971

2. Describe your childhood, parents, early life in minimum detail (what you want us to know)

My parents immigrated to the US when I was just 2. We moved to Erie, PA, then Pittsburgh, then Augusta, GA. My parents divorced in Augusta when I was 7 and my mom moved us to Charlotte, NC when I was 12. I went to high school in Charlotte then college in Boone, NC at Appalachian State Univ. I have one younger sister (Nellie) from my parent’s first marriage and another younger sister (Laila) and brother (Sharif) from my dad’s second marriage. Growing up Middle Eastern in the South was an interesting experience – it was hard to know how to fit in.

3. How did you enter the Naval Service?

I joined via the NUPOC (Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate) program when a recruiter came to ASU my freshman year. He won me and my friend, Thad, over with dreams of working on a big nuclear submarine – a visit to a real sub, USS Tennessee, in Kings Bay, GA confirmed that we were going to go for it.

4. Describe your early career in the Navy

I graduated OCS (Officer Candidate School) at Newport, RI in September of 1992. I went to Nuke School in Orlando, Prototype in Charleston, SC, then Sub School in Groton, CT. My first and only boat was the USS Birmingham stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I served as IC-Div (Internal Communications division), RCA (Reactor Controls Assistant), and A-Nav (Assistant Navigator, Assistant Operations Officer) while on the boat. My first summer, we participated in RIMPAC - a memorable exercise for me since it was a joint effort of the US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

5. Describe what you want us to know of the history of your accident, your care at Tripler Army Medical Center, your feelings upon awakening and during rehabilitation

To this day there are still two mysteries about my accident:
(a) What actually happened – I honestly have no idea. My last memory before waking up in the hospital is leaving the boat at 4 AM that Saturday night.
(b) How I survived – There are a number of small miracles that happened, not the least of which was a couple finding me in the middle of the night on a remote part of the island. That they actually had a cell phone in 1994 was pretty amazing! Another miracle is the phenomenal care at Tripler where I underwent over 18 hours of emergency surgery. Somehow, in spite of the fact I lost 80% of my blood, they managed to keep me alive.

There are a few other miracles but you have to read the book to get all of them.
For me, however, both of the above questions are overwhelmed by the fact that I know I lived for a reason. I am hoping that publishing this book and sharing the message of overcoming adversity with the power of the human spirit helps many people and raises lots of money for the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

6. Describe the role faith played in your recovery and rehabilitation.

Faith is a very important part of my life and was critical during the valleys of my recovery time. I personally believe God touches all of our lives, even if we are unaware of His presence. He is with us in our times of need as well as our times of simple pleasure. My life is a testament that He looks out for us and knows our limits better than we know ourselves. The way to find Him is not to look out at the world around us; we need only to look inside ourselves and listen intently. God will always have a path in front of us – if we choose it, it will bring us back in the right direction - we only have to open our minds to see it.

7. Tell us a little about your Commanding Officer's support.

I cannot tell you how much the support of my Commanding Officer, the now Rear Admiral Mark Kenny, meant to me. He is my personal role model and someone I try to emulate from a leadership standpoint. His support is the sole reason I was allowed to continue for as long as I did and eventually earn my dolphins. What he did for me was absolutely unbelievable! One of the things that I came to realize years later was that he operated the USS Birmingham with a short-handed wardroom during a critical Westpac cruise in order to buy me time and allow me to stay on active duty as long as I did. How’s that for commitment? You can learn all the wonderful things Mark and his wife, Cheryl, provided for me, by reading the book. Certainly, a special tribute to Mark and Cheryl is well deserved.

8. Describe how you accomplished your daily shipboard duties with the prosthetic leg and your injuries

As soon as I was able to stand on two feet, I wanted to go back to the boat. In fact, I was able to maneuver onboard better than on land, since I had the benefit of bulkheads, rails and surfaces to support me as I moved about. Most the time on the boat was sitting anyway. As a young guy, 24 years old, all I wanted was to be back with my shipmates, and be productive working again. Looking back on things now, I can actually say that I had the benefit of youth and ignorance. I did not know what I could not do, so I tried it anyway. Qualifying for dolphins is the single most important job for a submarine junior officer, so I made that my goal and mission. I knew if I could earn the dolphins, I could once again be whole. It would prove to myself as well as those around me that I was capable. It took a team effort - my Captain and crew all helped and without them I would never have had a chance.


9. How long did your rehabilitation take and how long to qualify in submarines. What was your dolphin pinning ceremony like?

Rehab was a long and arduous process. My accident was in November and I was not discharged from the hospital until January. I was released with the use of a wheelchair, since I could not even stand yet, and was under my sister’s care at home. It took until May for me to stand and get around on crutches, then until that Fall around October before I could walk. That was when I returned to the boat for a 2-month Eastpac cruise. I qualified in submarines Spring of the following year. My last test was performed after I had another surgery to further repair my fused ankle, so during my Dolphins pinning ceremony, I was actually on crutches. I did not care, however, since it was the most important thing to me. I was radiating with enthusiasm when my Captain, Mark Kenny, pinned on the Dolphins!

10. How do you feel about the military today? What is your interaction today?

I love the military and interact with it as much as possible. I have the utmost respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. Service and sacrifice is a tremendous responsibility. Today, my company, Cydecor, is a contractor to the Department of Defense. We support the Navy as well as other branches. On a personal level, I volunteer every week at Walter Reed as a peer-visitor. I spend time with the troops who have been seriously injured, and have, of course, dedicated the book My Decision to Live to those men and women. All the proceeds from My Decision to Live are donated to Yellow Ribbon Fund, which provides free housing and transportation to injured troops and their families.

11. Describe your accomplishments since leaving the Navy

Following the Navy, I started Cydecor as an information technology company. In two short years, we grew the company to 18 people but had to cut back when the technology bubble burst in 2000. In 2003, we modified our strategy to expand into Government. In February 2004, we received 8(a) certification from the Small Business Administration and, in just six months, won our first Prime contract with Office of Naval Research. That was a significant milestone since it marked the 10 year anniversary of my accident, and once again, I was working with the Navy.

Today, Cydecor has clients and teaming partners that include the Navy, DTRA, SAIC, L3 Communications, EG&G Technical Services and many other small and large government contractors. The accomplishment of creating jobs and opportunities for individuals is the most significant motivation for my professional career.

12. Why did you write your book and who it is dedicated to?

My Decision to Live is written for and dedicated to all the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. Every week, when I visit seriously injured troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as a volunteer peer-visitor, I leave amazed by their spirit and strength. Copies of My Decision to Live can be purchased on – if you buy a copy today, 100% of all proceeds will be donated to Yellow Ribbon Fund, a non-profit that supports our wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.

Thanks for the interview Nader. We are proud of your accomplishments and wish you success. Read the rest.