SAINT JOHNS, MI, USA U.S. Army PFC, COMPANY A, 9TH ENGINEER BATTALION, (1 CD), LEDWARD BARRACKS, GERMANY BAGHDAD, IRAQ 12/26/2006
Kristi Nelson’s Christmas morning started with a Webcam conversation with her husband, who urged her to get up and go celebrate with family. He might be at work, but she should have fun. He was just happy-go-lucky, she said.
On Christmas day the last thing you want to hear is that your son or husband has died on the battlefields of war, but this is exactly what happened to the family of PFC Andrew Henning Nelson from St. Johns, Michigan.
After that brief conversation with his wife Kristi, Andrew left on “Operation Dagger Iron Claw Route Clearance.” This would be Andrew’s final mission and the one that would put him in the pages of military history, a subject he loved, as a Michigan Fallen Hero.
On July 4th, 2007 I drove to St. Johns to attend the dedication of a “Lest They Be Forgotten” memorial to honor of Andrew’s life and career as an American Soldier.
Each speaker shared memories of PFC Andrew Nelson, a young man they knew for 19 years. One family friend spoke of a soldier she once knew as a small boy who, at the age of six, knew every word to “God Bless The USA” and would sing it with pride. That same little boy would live those words in real life.
Another family friend quoted from Andrew’s memorial service in Iraq, in the words of his commander. Lieutenant MacPhail said, “Andrew Nelson was the old-school type soldier. By that I mean that he could have assaulted the beaches of Normandy, or fought in the swamps of Vietnam. He was the same caliber of soldier as any one of the heroes from those eras. He had a drive in him that I have not seen in any other soldier.”
Kim Brewbaker, swim coach for St. Johns High School, spoke about Andrew the swimmer. While Andrew didn’t possess a natural talent, he did have a natural drive that made him an accomplished swimmer. He talked about Andrew’s senior year and the accomplishments he made, not only personally but also as the team captain.
A young man spoke next and told us that he wasn’t Andrew’s best friend. The only real connection they had is “over there,” as he pointed to a pool off in the distance. Andrew’s inspiring words kept him going, of a time when he just wanted to give up. Andrew wouldn’t let him. Andrew told him they could quit or they could push on and get through it together making them both stronger. He said he is who he is today only because of having had Andrew as a presence in his life.”I can only hope to be half of the person Andrew was.”
It was very apparent that Andrew’s drive and dedication were a direct result of the values that Alan and Tami instilled in their son and in Andrew’s sisters Jessica and Stephanie. They miss their son, their brother, and their hero, but will continue to celebrate Andrew’s life and honor his sacrifice and dedication because to Andrew being a soldier was, well, “That’s Just What You Do.” “Remember us when you go home and say.for your tomorrow we gave our today”
Excerpts from ‘That’s Just What You Do’ July 9th, 2007 by Susan Lucas