A lifetime public servant both in and out of the military, our September NFM Salute was struck by a terminal cancer diagnosis and left nearly homeless. Hear his harrowing story and how he is working to get back onto his feet thanks to the good folks at Code of Vets.

Full Transcript is Below:

– Welcome to our September NFM Salute. I’m NFM TV’s Greg Sher. We are hitting the road, literally, as you can see from our guest, former Army medic Rick Levine joins us, somewhere in Tennessee, as he drives his parents to go see his uncle. This is gonna be a fascinating story. Rick served from 1989 to 1994 as an Army medic. He traveled to Germany, Honduras, among other places. Rick, thank you for your service, and thank you for your time. We’re so glad you allowed us to honor you with our NFM salute.

– Thank you for your support. I appreciate that.

– Well, Rick, you’ve gone through a lot since the days that you served. You’re currently fighting cancer, and I wanna talk about that, and the struggles, and how you’re fighting to make it to the other side, thanks to the unbelievable efforts of the people at Code of Vets. Before we do that, I want to talk about what you recall about those years serving overseas.

– After going through basic and AIT for medical, as a combat medic, I was shipped over to Germany. I was assigned to 643 ADA unit, which is air defense, as their combat medic. I met my wife in Germany. She was assigned to that unit.

– As an army medic, tell us what your responsibilities are.

– Yeah. As a combat medic, our motto is, we’re a soldier first, and then we’re a medic. We go through the exact same combat training as any soldier. We carry firearms, carry a medical bag on top of it, and kind of become an equivalent to an EMT or a paramedic. Before I joined the army, I was a paramedic.

– And you got out in 1994, and for the last 25 years, you have continued serving in the realm of law enforcement. What made you decide to stick in that lane where you’re looking after people and keeping the peace?

– I’m a protector in many ways, even as a combat medic, and then as a flight medic for the army as well. For me, a lot of it was that human interaction and trying to see how I might be able to help change them, and change their lives for a positive.

– Well, you had your sights set last September on another chapter in your career, becoming a VA police officer. It’s a federal post, and you were going through training and you were doing the rigors that go along with that, including sit-ups, when you experienced some pain. What has it been like since that moment when you started down the road of discovering you had pancreatic cancer?

– You know, you go through some hard training, and the physical aspect of it. I’ve never had issues with the physical aspect. You know, I thought maybe it was just a strain, some pains. Did the CAT scan and MRI. That’s when they found the pancreatic cancer. That’s pretty much a death sentence, but I’ve heard doctors tell me though that, I have a golden ticket in the fact that it was early enough to detect it. ‘Cause most of the time, you don’t know about it until it’s too late. I was still considered terminal.

– And suddenly, after the diagnosis, Rick, you were dealt blow after blow. You were living in a camper that was paid through the following month and that was up. And you had to find your way back to your hometown in Illinois, but you couldn’t afford to get back. So you found yourself in a really helpless situation. Homeless, essentially, and were able to see the light through the folks at Code of Vets. And for those that don’t know what Code of Vets are all about, it’s really worth looking into. It is an amazing charity. They took you under their wing. Just explain to us how they got you back on your feet, and back with a roof over your head.

– Gretchen and Cindy from Code of Vets have just been phenomenal. Once I discovered Code of Vets, explained what’s been going on in my life, they jumped in and said, “You know what? We’re not gonna allow you to be homeless. You know, we’re gonna help you out.” I mean, they’ve sent me donations to get me into housing, to get a roof over my head. During that timeframe, with the diagnosis, the doctors didn’t want me to leave and go anywhere, even if I could afford it at the time. So Code of Vets helped bring my wife out, and she stayed with me during the entire surgical procedures and everything else.

– I wanna peel back a little bit deeper, ’cause they’ve given you $4,000 year-to-date, but also, Dr. Cindy Walter of Code of Vets, she helped fight for your benefits.

– I had been trying to fight with the VA for years, in trying to figure out the system and understand how do I get things that I need? And that’s where Code of Vets really helps out. They understand how that VA system works. One thing that Cindy discovered while looking through my medical records, was that, I actually was diagnosed with colon cancer while I was in the military. And they never told me that. I never knew I had it, until Cindy discovered it.

– The military kept that from you.

– Yes.

– I’m curious to know, with your medical background, if it makes it easier to cope with, or more difficult, because you know of all the different things that the illness can lead to.

– It definitely weighs on my mind. You know, I try not to focus on that so much. I try to focus more on, what I can do to improve my health.

– You’ve lost a hundred pounds. I’m curious to know, how much fuller your days are, when you can get over the mental obstacles of dealing with the enormity of what you’re dealing with. Are you finding more pleasure in things? Are you seeing things differently?

– Yeah. You know, you have to stop and smell the roses. I mean, I’ve always been a gung-ho, go, go, go kind of guy. You know, I’m used to rushing through the doors. I’m used to working a lot of overtime. With the diagnosis, it’s really caused me to put a pause. I look at my family, you know, man, I could have done more with my family.

– Yeah.

– You know, I’m trying to spend more time with my kids, my grandkids.

– Well, given all that, just the fact that you’d give us this time is meaningful to us. And the legend of Code of Vets is about to grow even larger for you, Rick, because ordinarily, we donate the $2,500 to the Code of Vets and they dole it out as they see fit. They gave me special instructions to write that check directly to you and your family. So, NFM Lending is going to cut a check for $2,500. And we just hope and pray for you and your family, that you can get back on your feet, and that you can survive this. It sounds like they caught it early. And I just want you to know how much our community and every American appreciates the sacrifices that you made and appreciates the time that you served. And we wish you nothing but the very, very best.

– Well, I appreciate that. And I’m honored and I’m humbled. You know, I guess I look at myself as, I’m not that kind of guy that. I don’t know. I’m just.. I’m humbled by it, and I really appreciate it.

– Of course. We can see it in your eyes, and we appreciate you so much. Rick Levine, former Army medic. Get well soon.

– Thank you, sir.

– We appreciate your time. Thank you for being our September NFM salute. I’m NFM TV’s Greg Sher. We’ll see you again next time.