Marine’s new mission: Brave rough waters


Nic Doucette


March 5, 2014

By Amanda Ramirez


Many Americans recognize “Semper Fi” as the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps., but not everyone knows the meaning of the phrase. Semper Fidelis is a Latin term that translates to “always faithful.”

U.S. Marine Nic Doucette, a junior at UW- Whitewater, said he plans to demonstrate his faithfulness to fellow Marines by kayaking the Mississippi River from source to sea on May 31, 2014, to raise $25,000 for the Semper Fi Fund, a charity that provides assistance to injured members of the U.S. armed forces and thier families.

The journey will take approximately two and a half months.

“It means a lot that people I directly know are getting the help,” Doucette said about his fundraising efforts.

Doucette joined the Marine Corps when he was 20 years old.

He served active duty from January 2008 to November 2011 in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and was eventually deployed to southern Afghanistan to conduct a mission known as “route clearance.”

On Nov. 26, 2010, two of Doucette’s fellow Marines, Sgt. Gabriel Martinez and Cpl. Justin Gaertner, stepped on separate pressure-plate activated Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) while using their metal detectors to locate the explosives.

Both Martinez and Gaertner lost their legs and suffered other life-threatening injuries. Since the incident, both have recovered and received support from several generous charities.

Doucette asked Martinez and Gaertner which charity had played a large role in supporting them and their families throughout their rehabilitation. Doucette said both replied the Semper Fi Fund.

After returning home, Doucette said he developed an interest in outdoor sports as a way to experience adventure in his daily life.

Doucette wanted to kayak the entire length of the Mississippi River, 2,552 miles, from Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. But Doucette said he did not want to embark on this journey without cause. He wanted his trip to have a positive impact on the lives of fellow Marines.

Doucette’s friend, U.S. Marine Gabe Vasquez, will accompany Doucette on the journey.

Doucette said his goal is to raise $25,000 for the Semper Fi Fund, and he will not utilize any funds to subsidize his trip. All donations will go directly to the Semper Fi Fund.

The Semper Fi Fund was created by a group of Marine Corps spouses in 2004. The organization provides financial and emotional support through programs such as adaptive housing and transportation, education and career transitioning, family support and rehabilitative sports programs.

“The donations aren’t just going to raise awareness about wounded veterans,” Doucette said. “This is helping them get their vehicles and homes modified, and pay for rehab costs.”

Lynn Smith, Adult/Nontraditional student services coordinator, met Doucette in the Veterans and Servicemembers Lounge located in Andersen Library. Smith oversees UW-Whitewater’s 800 nontraditional students to meet their unique needs and offer programs to enhance their college experience.

After learning about Doucette’s cause, Smith has been helping Doucette promote his journey with on-campus flyers and posts on the Adult Student’s Connection website and Facebook page.

“Using your talents to support other efforts is what makes the world go round,” Smith said.

After posting details about his journey on social media, Doucette received feedback and support from strangers that live on the Mississippi River.

“People I don’t even know are willing to help me,” Doucette said.  “All the way down the [Mississippi] River I’ve got places to stay, people willing to bring me a warm breakfast, or that want to just stop by and say ‘hi.’”

Doucette said his wife, Heather Doucette, has been his greatest source of support throughout planning the journey.

As a social media marketing coordinator, Heather Doucette, who graduated from UW-Whitewater in 2011, has assisted her husband with building his journey website, drafting outreach letters to local VFWs and other social media outreach.

“Make an impact and donate to this great cause,” Smith said. “Your donation will be your way to give back to veterans who have given so much for our freedom.”

On Friday, April 11, 2014, Fat Jack’s Sports Bar and Grill will be host a fundraiser for Doucette’s journey and fellow Veterans Service Organization (VSO) member, Ryan Longeran, between 6 and 10 p.m.

Longeran is director of Rock County Dryhootch, a nonprofit organization formed by combat veterans to help veterans returning home readjust to daily life. Dryhootch focuses on providing veterans with a safe, comfortable environment free from drugs and alcohol.

Fat Jack’s will donate 10 percent of all profits to be split between the Semper Fi Fund and Rock County Dryhootch.

For more information or to make a donation, visit Doucette’s webpage at The site contains information about the Semper Fi Fund, Doucette’s route and other in-depth details about Doucette’s journey.