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I could have probably used some help years ago, like when I was struggling when I first got out. I first had to start thinking positive.

I was very negative, I was making bad decisions. I was feeling sorry for myself. But instead of returning to alcohol and drugs and all those things, I went to church. When I did that, I started looking at the positive, and then my life started getting more positive.

A Journey to Vietnam, and Reconciliation

And nothing but positive things have been happening since. In , I was living in a transitional home and saw a pamphlet. So I researched it. I was excited. I had a roof over my head! And then I started getting involved. I was seeing that other people were in the same boat I was in, so I started some little programs to help other vets.

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In addition to returning fire with a machine gun from the back of a truck, she delivered mortar rounds to soldiers in another truck. During the ambush, a Special Forces soldier was gravely wounded. Nicol, who completed her Army contract in January , arrived at Stanford in September She was one of 23 transfer students — including nine military veterans — who joined the undergraduate community.

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Nicol, a Stanford junior, had earlier earned associate degrees in Spanish and in intelligence operations. She declared psychology as her major.

During a recent interview in the lounge of her residence hall in Escondido Village, Nicol talked about her decision to join the Army, her eight years as a soldier and the goal that brought her to Stanford — becoming an advocate for disadvantaged children and youth. Image credit: L. Nicol was accompanied by her black rescue pug, Vader, who ambled beneath the coffee table for a while before settling down at her feet. Looking back at her decision to enlist in the military, Nicol said it reflected the respect for military service instilled in her by her father, who died of cancer when she was But now, I thank God that he did.

It made an impression on me.

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So, a year after graduating from high school, she became the first member of her family to join the military. She was stationed in a military intelligence position with the 82nd Airborne Division. During her initial military training, Nicol realized she wanted to have the chance to be deployed and fight in the war. He had been a funny kid, with a witty sense of humor.

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He was more serious. Shortly after leaving the military, Olsen moved to Moline, Illinois, where he worked as a computer network administrator. He became increasingly involved in the peace movement, and his political activism deepened. Activists in the San Francisco area who know him say Olsen appeared to be doing well with his life, and did not seem to suffer from the kinds of emotional and psychiatric problems that afflict many veterans.

He just sat down and introduced himself. Emily Yates, an Army veteran and aspiring musician, met Olsen when he came with a friend to her first concert at a neighborhood bar. He helped Yates broadcast her show live on the Internet. When the Occupy Wall Street movement started in New York in September and spread to other cities, Olsen began to camp out with other protesters in San Francisco at night — then went to work during the day.

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After police cracked down on activists in neighboring Oakland on October 25, Olsen and a handful of other veterans made the half-hour trip across San Francisco Bay to join protesters trying to reoccupy a plaza from which police had expelled them. He was later transferred from an Oakland hospital to one closer to his home south of San Francisco. Doctors and family members have declined to comment on his condition, saying last week that he was awake and communicative, though not able to speak.