A son, a soldier, a biker
There is something about the crisp morning weather that adds a little bite to that morning ride. Dressed as his own dad in Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian t-shirt, a shaved head with a bald spot in the back, Austin Garrett Nicely, 22 years old, was on his Harley headed to celebrate Halloween with his fellow Army brothers and to raise the flag for his Army ROTC program. It was a very exciting morning for Austin. It was about 5:30 a.m. when the dark, chilly morning ride took a turn for the worst. As Austin was splitting lanes on Yorba Linda Blvd, he approached a stoplight at an intersection on Placentia Ave. He had timed it just right, or so he thought, so he could be in front of everyone when it turned green. Little did he know that as his light turned green a young man on his way to work was about to make a turn that would change both their lives, as he was not checking his blind spots, let alone motorcycles. As Austin hit his throttle, the young man hit his gas pedal, shooting the car out from between a cement wall and a hedge and the two forces collided.
In motorcycle accidents there is no denying that much more is shattered then pieces of the bike. Families are hit emotionally just as hard as the rider is hit physically. Can you imagine looking in the hospital bed at your 22 year old ambitious, kind, loyal, patriotic, funny, and strong willed son, not being able to do a single thing to help (except to pray)? Austin had compound fractures of both his lower legs, an open pelvic fracture and every bone broken on his left side, just to name a few…
The next day, on November 1st, 2014, he was pronounced brain dead at 6:32 p.m. His brain had moved an insane 7 cm within his skull. As nearly 90 people gathered in the waiting room to say their goodbyes to this amazing young man, Nicole Nicely and Austin’s mom, noticed something beautiful. Amongst the 90 people present there was grandparents, family, a wide variety of friends, his ROTC comrades, and his “Skinheads”. This was a beautiful blend of diversity. Austin always saw the best in people, and he was very easy to get along with. For example, the “Skinheads” that Austin was a part of, was an anti-racist group. It is a group of roughly 25 men including 20 Mexican Americans, 1 Vietnamese man, 2 African Americans, and 2 Caucasians. They are very big on brotherhood, loyalty, and hard work. Nicole Nicely stated, “Austin held groups of people together.” He was a bundle of adventure, joy, and passion. He was very down to Earth and befriended all types of people from various upbringings and backgrounds. Unfortunately, when he left us, the bonds between friends deteriorated… He was the glue.
Anything Austin did, he did with all his heart. Once he took on the role of the Easter bunny for a family gathering. Rumor has it, he blew all the Easter bunnies out of the water. His mom remembers Austin as being someone who “would do pretty much anything for a good laugh.” His love and passion for life could not be contained. Because Austin was a donor of his heart, kidneys, liver, eyes, and tissues, he was able to save 4 immediate people, and impact a multitude of other lives. Nicole Nicely received multiple letters back from donor recipients, expressing their condolences, and endless appreciation. In his remembrance Nicole started “Watch for Motorcycles” a motorcycle awareness organization. They are currently in the process of receiving their non-profit status. Nicole sets up booths all over Orange County, California at motorcycle events, educating people about the importance of checking blind spots, and watching for motorcycles. I have the privilege of photographing the stellar events and fundraisers that “Watch for Motorcycles” is a part of. Austin may not be here physically, but his spirit lives on through his beautiful family and “W4M”. There is a annual remembrance ride coming up on the September 29th. Everyone will be meeting at Lifestyle Cycles, in Anaheim, CA at 11:30 a.m.
Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Austin Garrett Nicely, I feel like I know him. As I interviewed Nicole for this article, my eyes continuously welded up with tears, as she shared her beloved son’s life with me. There is a saying that I love, but for many years, never understood. “There is purpose in the pain.” Now, I understand. It is moments in life like this. Moments of pain and heartache that gives us the opportunity to make a decision. To allow our heart’s pain to be our defeat, or to let it be our victory. Austin may have never made it to raise the flag at his ROTC Halloween celebration, but because of his passing, he has raised awareness for thousands of motorcyclists so far. This is only the beginning for Austin. His ride will continue on.