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Doc Todd, a rapper who helped other veterans feel 'Not Alone,' dies at 38

Sometimes he went by the nickname, Mik. To the thousands of people, especially veterans, who listened to his hip-hop, he was known as Doc Todd. George Michael Todd was a Navy corpsman who served in Afghanistan with the 2/8 Marines — known as "America's Battalion."

He died in Atlanta earlier this month at the age of 38. The cause was sudden cardiac death, according to his wife, Abigail.

George Michael Todd in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in June 2009.
/ Abigail Todd
Abigail Todd
George Michael Todd in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in June 2009.

In 2017, Todd told NPR his album Combat Medicine was intended to help fellow veterans heal. One of his most popular songs, "Not Alone" is about empowerment, "about taking charge of your life, taking charge of your transition" from the combat zone to civilian life, he said.

This week, hundreds of friends and family members attended his funeral in Sandy Springs, GA.

"First time I met Mik," Kris McDaniel, Lead Pastor of Trinity Anglican Church told funeral attendees, "he came up to me after church ... and just swallowed me up in a hug, and the first thing he says is 'I'm a rapper!' " McDaniel chuckles at the memory, "And I was like, sure you are a rapper.'"

Later, McDaniel found out it was true and became a fan.

Doc Todd was born in Memphis on Feb. 16, 1985, to George Sr. (Mike) and Rebecca Googe Todd. He joined the Navy in his mid-20s.

In 2009, he was in Afghanistan during an American push in the Helmand River valley, which was controlled by the Taliban. As a corpsman (essentially a medic), he treated blast and burn injuries. The heat was also brutal, says U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Eric Meador who got to know Todd well.

"The guys just couldn't stay cooled off," remembers Meador. He says Todd and his crew started pulling guys off the frontline and telling them to jump in the canal. " 'Get wet, get back out. Now you get back up on the line, continue fighting and let's rotate. Get the next guys in there.' "

Meador says Todd "saved a lot of guys from being heat casualties."

The first Marine to be killed in that battle was Todd's roommate, 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Charles Seth Sharp. More friends died or were wounded. Todd came home with PTSD.

But Meador remembers Todd as someone who brought levity to tough situations. "People were drawn to him... He had a little clique of guys that did jingles and raps and little sing songs together."

He was known to check in with fellow vets regularly.

Doc Todd and his wife Abigail Todd in the last selfie they took together, in Dec. 2022
/ Abigail Todd
Abigail Todd
Doc Todd and his wife Abigail Todd in the last selfie they took together, in Dec. 2022

"I don't even know what to say," writes Chase Reynolds on Todd's Instagram, "His music helped me when I came home. Even chatted a bit. RIP brother.. thank you for everything you've done for our community.. we got it from here."

Meador says, over the years, he would get texts out of the blue from Todd. "'Hey sir... Just checking on you. Are you good?' That was the constant messaging. And I'm just one. There's countless others."

Before he deployed to Afghanistan Todd fell head over heels in love with his future wife. At his funeral, Abby Todd read a letter he'd written to her from Afghanistan:

"I dream about you almost every night. You soothed me so much and turned my nervous energy into something positive. You make me a better person, and I thank you deeply for that. ... It's crazy. No matter how much I wash my feet, they still stink. I just wanted to tell you that. I don't know why."

The Todd family during a home renovation in May 2020.
/ Abigail Todd
Abigail Todd
The Todd family during a home renovation in May 2020.

The room erupted in laughter.

There was that levity. But Todd wasn't afraid to, as pastor Kris McDaniel put it, pull "back the curtain on pain and loss."

"How cathartic is it when someone, a big man, a military man, looks out at the world and says, 'We all go through stuff and we can all make it through stuff. We can all get somewhere if we realize we're not alone.' "

McDaniel also said, "The best way we honor the passing of a gentle giant, a big hearted man, is to try to be as real as he was."

George "Doc" "Mik" Todd is survived by his wife and two daughters, his parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and a whole lot of friends.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.