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.

NFM Lending is pleased to honor Corporal Rick Levine, USA, as the NFM Salute for September 2022.

Levine grew up in southern California. Both of his grandfathers fought in WWII, and he followed their military legacy when he joined the U.S. Army in 1989 at age 23.

Levine completed basic training at Fort Bliss, TX, and he soon deployed to Germany and Honduras as a combat medic. “As a combat medic or soldier medic, our motto is we’re soldiers first and then we’re medics after that. We go through the exact same combat training as any soldier,” he explained. “Before I joined the Army, I was a paramedic. So as I came in, I continued being a paramedic. It was a good skillset to have, and it helped with a lot of soldiers who needed it.” Levine also served as a flight medic for joint missions with the Marines, FBI, and DEA during drug raids in Texas and Colorado. In 1992, the helicopter he was riding in crashed shortly after takeoff en route to Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Luckily, he was not seriously injured. With 2 years of foreign service, Levine received eight meritorious service medals and five army commendation medals for saving soldiers and civilian lives during various tours of duty. Levine left the military in 1994 after nearly six years of service.

Following his time in the Army, Levine began a 25-year-long career as a police officer in Browns, Illinois. For Levine, it was a natural extension of his character and core beliefs. “I really enjoyed serving my fellow humans, whether it was from the medical side or on the law enforcement side,” he said. “It’s been more protecting other people. Even when they harm themselves or are harmed by others, you know I did my best to kind of keep them going. And on the law enforcement side, we have laws that we need to uphold, but for me, a lot of it was that human interaction to try and see how I might be able to help change them and change their lives for the positive.”

In September 2021, Levine had his sights set on being selected for a federal position when he discovered he had early stages of pancreatic cancer. Unemployed and living out of a camper, Levine felt lost and hopeless. He was far from his family in Illinois and was close to losing his temporary shelter. Despite these dire circumstances, Levine found a way forward with the help of Code of Vets (COV). Through the organization and its donors, Levine was able to keep a roof over his head through his diagnosis and reunited with his wife during one of his operations. COV co-founders Gretchen Smith and Dr. Cindy Walter walked Levine through applying for V.A. benefits. As a result, he is now receiving full V.A. and Social Security benefits. Using the remaining COV donation, he moved back with his family.

Levine lives in Illinois with his wife. He is moving at a more leisurely pace these days. “I was always a gung-ho, go-go-go kind of guy, whether I was in the military or law enforcement,” said Levine. “This diagnosis, it’s really caused me to put a pause on that aspect of my life. I look at my family—I could have done more with my family, but now I have the time to do it. So now I’m trying to spend more time with my kids, my grandkids as much as I can.”