Veteran turns his life around through faith, education

Nick Bedwell is wrapping up an online Arizona State University bachelor’s degree.

Nick Bedwell is wrapping up an online Arizona State University bachelor’s degree.

Public affairs grad with challenging past plans career as police officer.

Nick Bedwell is wrapping up an online Arizona State University bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude. He overcame years of setbacks to earn his diploma through perseverance and faith.

Bedwell said his father “left the picture” when he was young. Later, to care for his ill mother, Bedwell said he had no choice but to give up plans to attend college out of state. She lost her battle with cancer in 2009.

Today, Bedwell said he feels lucky to have found something that guided him the way she once did — out of despair and ultimately into a line of graduates in May to shake hands with the dean.

The Tacoma, Washington, resident is researching a career as a police officer, as he expects to receive a bachelor’s degree in public service and public policy with a concentration in emergency management and homeland security in August from ASU’s School of Public Affairs via ASU Online. The school is in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Even without a father, Bedwell describes his childhood as “a phenomenal hardship of endless chores earning my keep, Little League sports supported by my mother in the stands and BMX bikes.”

He said he calls that time phenomenal because he spent it with his mother, whom he called his best friend.

The pain of losing her led him away from his rural Nevada hometown and into trouble. Bedwell went to Las Vegas, “where you can easily find the wrong things and the wrong people,” he said. “It’s easy if you don’t have the guidance. You can easily get lost.”

Bedwell said his path to success included discovering his Christian faith, taking up physical fitness training and serving as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army.

After leaving Las Vegas, Bedwell returned home to Gardnerville, Nevada, where he learned he owed thousands of dollars — that he didn’t have — in overdue mortgage payments on the house he grew up in. Family and friends had abandoned him, and soon Bedwell was sleeping in parks and laundromats. To be presentable each day, he paid daily admission to a swim center to use its shower facilities.

Bedwell found a job at a Carson City, Nevada, restaurant and he bicycled 17 miles one way from where he slept at night. Depending on the time of year, he had to make the long trek in hot, rainy or snowy weather, all frequently experienced in the Sierra Nevada.

“Riding your bicycle on U.S. 395 is no walk in the park,” he said.

Eventually, Bedwell saved enough money to buy an inexpensive car and moved to nearby Reno.

“I became motivated to change my life, better my existence. I could either do drugs, be a bum, become a nobody — or take another path,” Bedwell said. “I could be relying on Christ, to become a better man of God.”

He started working out with Crossfit, eventually excelling at bodybuilding and gaining strength inside and out. In 2012, he said, he made a decision.

Seeing himself as “a 27-, 28-year-old boy, I needed to man up,” he said.

In 2013, Bedwell joined the Army, following in the footsteps of his father, a Vietnam War veteran, and his grandfather, who had survived the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

“(The Army) cracked the whip, like my mom used to do. They put me on task to achieve more than I could ever achieve before. I bought into their ‘be all that you can be’ slogan.”

Bedwell served in the U.S., the Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. At one point, a sergeant major advised him to go to school. He began online studies at ASU. Today, he wants to start a career and earn a master’s degree. He’s also thinking about entering politics someday.

He’s intent on proving you don’t need to be anywhere near Las Vegas to hit a jackpot in life.

“I did all the wrong things in life that caused my downfall in this existence. I turned to God, and my life changed,” he said. “I am now a clean, fit, healthy veteran of the U.S. Army, who is a boxing and snowboard champion, Mr. Olympia stage competitor, and I will graduate from ASU with a (bachelor’s degree) in homeland security, magna cum laude.”


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