Death of Ukrainian officer inspires retired Concord Marine to action

Death of Ukrainian officer inspires retired Concord Marine to action

Death of Ukrainian officer inspires retired Concord Marine to action
Mike Hudson of Concord wore a 65-pound pack for the last leg of his “4/4/48” fundraiser for Ukraine. Hours after completing the challenge last month, he found out that Nick Nikonov had died in Mariupol.
Death of Ukrainian officer inspires retired Concord Marine to action
Ukrainian Lt. Col. Nick Nikonov, 37, died on March 12 while fighting Russian forces in Mariupol.

CONCORD, CA (Apr. 14, 2022) — As retired Lt. Col. Mike Hudson prepares to emcee the city’s Memorial Day service, he finds himself once again thinking about a fallen officer – this time a friend in the Ukrainian military.

Lt. Col. Nick Nikonov, 37, died March 12 in Mariupol in eastern Ukraine. Hudson has limited information about his death. “I’ve heard different stories, and I have no idea whether the stories are legitimate.”

Nikonov had sent Hudson messages daily since the Russian invasion began in February.

“He would send pictures of a Russian rocket attack that hit houses,” Hudson recalled. “The next one would say: ‘Hey, we were able to attack a Russian convoy.’ ”

Nikonov had lost contact with his wife before his death, but Hudson has since reached out to her. “We know their home (near Odessa) had been destroyed, but we were able to confirm that his wife and family are safe. We’re not totally sure where they are, but we have some degree of contact with them.”

Long-time friends

Nick Nikonov gave these dolls to Mike and Cristela Hudson’s daughters when the two servicemen reconnected at Quantico.

The two servicemen met in 2011 in Ukraine, preparing for a multi-national exercise in the Black Sea. “Basically, we searched for common training requirements that we had between his group of Naval Special Warfare operators and our Reconnaissance Marines,” Hudson said.

In 2015, Nikonov was selected to attend a Marine Corps school for mid-level officers at Quantico. Hudson was stationed at Quantico then, preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

“Nick was a common feature at our house – kids’ birthday parties, my going-away,” Hudson said. “And just like the good friend that he was, he checked in on my family when I was gone.”

Once back in Ukraine, Nikonov spent most of his military service in skirmishes with separatists in eastern Ukraine. Hudson, meanwhile, retired in 2018 after 25 years with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Raising funds for Ukraine

Since the war began on Feb. 24, Hudson has been working with the Marine Reconnaissance Foundation to get needed supplies to Ukrainian troops.

“It’s a support network of people in the veteran community. It’s basically the same people we worked with in Afghanistan who have people on the ground moving supplies and goods – body armor, helmets, medical supplies,” Hudson said.

In March, Hudson participated in a “4/4/48” challenge fundraiser inspired by former Navy Seal and inspirational author David Goggins. The goal is to run four miles every four hours for 48 hours.

“The last leg was a shorter distance from my house to the Concord Veterans Center, so I ran it with a 65-pound pack,” he said. “It was bittersweet. I was excited about finishing the fundraiser, and then hours after that, I found that Nick had passed.”

Hudson has raised more than $9,000 through GoFundMe ( And it doesn’t end there. His wife Cristela is helping coordinate a fundraiser at their daughter Yullina’s school, Ygnacio Valley Christian in Concord.

With supplies donated by parents, the middle school students are selling root beer floats every Friday. The school is also earmarking funds from the 2021 and upcoming 2022 jog-a-thons.

Cristela, who emigrated from El Salvador in 1984, was scheduled to talk at a school tea April 14 about how growing up with civil war shaped her. “It’s now become a whole family affair to help,” she said.

Rallying the community

Like so many in the military, Hudson is no stranger to loss. In fact, daughter Yullina is named after another fallen soldier, Marine Yull Estrada.

“I would say that it never gets easier,” Hudson reflected. “But I guess it strengthens my resolve to want to continue to support our friends and allies. And I realize that just because I’m not on active service doesn’t mean that I can’t influence and support and help. I think it’s empowering to know that.”

He is passionate about getting the word out about how the war in Ukraine affects our local community. It’s the same thing he did after the fall of Kabul last year, as Afghan refugees arrived here.

“I’ve found that this community has been very supportive. They are happy to help. They ask to volunteer and get involved,” Hudson said. “That includes people I know on the City Council, people of various religious faiths. It’s a pretty diverse community, and it’s nice to see people come together to support one another.”

Related story: Memorial Day is for remembering. Honor those who have gone before.

Bev Britton
Bev Britton
Copy Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer |

Bev Britton graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota and moved to the Bay Area with her soon-to-be husband Jim in 1986. She was features editor at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek before becoming managing editor of the Contra Costa Sun in Lafayette in 1995. She retired from newsrooms in 2001, but an ad for the Clayton Pioneer drew her back in. The family moved to Lake Wildwood in the Gold Country a few years ago - but working at the Pioneer keeps her in touch with her old neighborhoods in Concord and Clayton.