Richard J Nelson

RACINE, WI, USA U.S. Marines CPL, F CO, 2D BN, 24TH MAR, (RCT-1, I MEF FWD), 4TH MAR DIV, MILWAUKEE, WI

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ 04/14/2008


A single roadside bomb killed 23-year-old Corporal Richard Nelson of Kenosha and 29-year-old Lance Corporal Dean Opicka, a Casco native and graduate of Carroll College in Waukesha.


Nelson’s mother, Susan Nelson, said she was informed that her son was killed by an improvised bomb in Anbar province, and military officials offered no other details. He was the second youngest of her seven children, she said. Survivors include five brothers and a sister.


He served in Iraq before but had gotten married a year ago Monday and wasn’t looking forward to going back for this tour, his mother said.


“He knew what was waiting for him there,” she said.


Nelson loved to hunt and fish and watch Green Bay Packer games, she said. He idolized Packers quarterback Brett Favre and even called home the day Favre retired last month.


“He told me, ‘Mom, tell me the news isn’t true. Tell me Brett Favre hasn’t retired.’ He wanted to hold onto the memories he left.”

He and his wife, Kristen, planned to start their own family when he got home, Susan Nelson said. He also planned to go to college and become an elementary school teacher.


“He just loved kids,” she said.


The last time they’d seen him in person was Christmas, when the whole family was together, she said. Her husband, Lennie, a Vietnam veteran, was taking the news of his son’s death “terrible,” she said.


“When you send a child off to war … things happen,” she said. “Nothing goes by God without him giving permission. I believe something good is going to come from it. I don’t know what that is yet, but my husband and I have faith. I’ll understand it someday, just not now.”

A memorial service was held outside Christian Life School, where Nelson graduated in 2003 and his mother, Susan Nelson, is the administrator. Susan Nelson said she talked to her son two days before his death.


“His faith was strong. He spoke that very clearly when we were on the phone, and he initiated that,” she said. “That’s absolutely why I’m not a wreck right now and when all the military showed up at my door.”


She was at the ceremony with her husband, Lennie, Nelson’s wife, Kristen and other family members. Senior Tim Britzman, who organized the event, was only in the seventh grade when Nelson graduated, but said he was well remembered by a lot of students. Nelson played percussion in the school band and enjoyed hunting and fishing with his father, Leonard. He signed up for the Marine Reserves as a high school senior.


He and his wife, Kristen, planned to start their own family when he got home, Susan Nelson said. He also planned to go to college and become an elementary school teacher.


“When he was home, he was around a bunch of little kids. He has 14 nieces and nephews. The more he was around kids, the more he realized that’s what he wanted to do,” she said.


Richard’s portrait is also located on Poster 4