PACE, FL, US
U.S. Marine Corps
LCPL, 1ST BN 6TH MAR, (RCT-1, II MEF FWD), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC
08/18/2011, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
When the rain began to pour, many of the people lining Navy Boulevard ran for cover, but not Glenda Conrady. Dressed in a red T-shirt, ball cap, white capri pants and gym shoes, Conrady stood motionless holding four American flags in her hands. She was among the more than 50 people who showed up Aug. 24 to pay their respects to Marine Lance Corporal Travis Nelson, 19. The Pace High School graduate was shot to death Aug. 18 while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan.
“A little rain was not a big deal,” said Conrady, 55, of Pensacola. “That’s how important it is to be here supporting the families — the men and women in the military. I’m proud to stand here in the rain.”
Nelson’s body arrived at 2 p.m. at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where his family waited. A long motorcade that included the Patriot Guard Riders, deputies and state troopers escorted the hearse from NAS to Petty-Eastside Funeral Home in Atmore, Ala. Conrady wore a T-shirt that she made to honor Nelson. Nelson’s name is on the front of the shirt and a quote from his Facebook page is on the back.
The shirt read: “I’ll carry this flag to the grave if I must ‘cause it’s the flag that I love and a flag that I trust.”
The crowd began to gather at Navy Boulevard and Interbay Avenue, which is near the main entrance of NAS Pensacola, at about 1:30 p.m. Some were former military members. Others have children and spouses in the military. The rest had no direct ties to the military. Conrady’s husband, Kevin, 54, is a retired Navy warrant officer. Her son, Hank, 21, is in the Navy. Conrady said she does not worry about what will happen if her son is deployed.
“That’s why they join — to serve their country,” she said. “It’s an honor to serve their country.”
It was 92 degrees when the crowd started to arrive on Navy Boulevard. It wasn’t long before a dark cloud loomed in the sky. Thunder and lightning soon followed. Sometime after 2:30 p.m., a downpour hit. Some people scurried under a building’s overhang and others gathered under umbrellas. By the time the procession began to roll along Navy Boulevard shortly before 3 p.m., the rain had stopped. Most of the people gathered held up American flags as the fleet of motorcycles and marked law enforcement vehicles passed them. Others saluted. Judith Seward, 56, of Pensacola held a large flag that used to fly outside her home.
“I don’t know his family, but it’s the least I could do,” she said. “I’m honored to be out here waving my flag for him and paying my respects.”
Bill Weeks, 55, was among several members of the J.R. Spears Marine Corps League who came to honor Nelson. Weeks’ son, William, 24, leaves for his second tour in Afghanistan on Sept. 17. “All Marines are brothers,” he said. “I realize it could be my son. My wife couldn’t come … because of that.”
The Escambia County Commission voted Thursday night renamed the Bratt Community Park in honor of Lance Corporal Travis M. Nelson, the local Marine killed in action last month in Afghanistan. An official dedication for the “Lance Corporal Travis M. Nelson Memorial Park” will be scheduled for a later date, according to District 5 Commissioner Kevin White. The Nelson family has also requested the county’s permission to place a monument at the park on Highway 4 near Northview High School, just two doors down from where Travis Nelson grew up. Nelson was the first soldier killed in action from the Walnut Hill or Bratt area since 1969.
Scholarship Fund in Honor of Lance Corporal Travis Nelson
The legacy of Lance Corporal Travis Michael Nelson will live on through the lives of other young marines and the lives of his neighbors in Bratt, as his family plans to award an annual college scholarship and place a monument in a public park in his honor. Lance Corporal Nelson, 19, was shot and killed by enemy fire Aug. 18 while on patrol in Marjah, Afghanistan, only five weeks after being deployed as an infantry rifleman with the First Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejuene, N.C., according to the Department of Defense. The young Marine’s parents, Beckie and Scott Nelson of Bratt, buried their son last Friday in Atmore’s Oak Hill Cemetery as hundreds of people paid their final respects and showed their appreciation to the family for Nelson’s service to his country.
“The support of the community has been remarkable to say the least,” Scott Nelson said following his son’s funeral Aug. 26. “Words really cannot express how we felt from the response to Travis’ death and funeral.”
Nelson said the community support has shown that Americans still have a heart and patriotism for the country and her people.
“Travis would have been proud to know he gave his life and the people came together as they did to show their respect,” Nelson said. “It’s nice to know that we haven’t given up on what our country was founded on – God, love, patriotism, honor, respect and the old-fashioned neighbor.”
From the gates of the Naval Air Station in Pensacola last Wednesday when Lance Corporal Nelson’s body arrived, to the streets of Atmore following his funeral last Friday, thousands upon thousands of people, from all ages and walks of life, lined the streets to honor the fallen marine. As a tribute to their son and the sacrifices he made to serve his country, the Nelsons are creating a college scholarship fund to be awarded to one or two outstanding seniors involved in either the Northview or Pace High School ROTC program or in the Young Marines of Pensacola.
“Both of these organizations were such a big part of Travis’ life and were the beginning of his commitment to serve his country,” Beckie Nelson said. “We are proud of Travis and know that he would want to share in the excitement of other young men and women as they prepare for a career in military service.”
For the first year, the Nelsons plan to award a $500 scholarship to a senior ROTC member from NHS or PHS or Young Marine with the highest GPA (grade point average), who exemplifies community involvement and service and commitment to their country through military service.
“We think this is the best way to honor Travis and his life,” Mrs. Nelson said. “He loved his country and we know he died doing what he loved.”
Mrs. Nelson said she hopes the scholarship fund will eventually be able to offer at least two scholarships a year for up to a $1,000 to a senior ROTC member from both NHS and PHS. In addition to the scholarship fund, the Nelson’s are seeking approval from Escambia County (Fla.) officials to place a monument in honor of their son at the county-funded and maintained park located on Highway 4 in Bratt, just two doors down from Nelson’s childhood home.
“We just thought it would be fitting to have something there to remember him by,” Mrs. Nelson said. “This is where he grew up and he spent many hours and days out here playing before the park was built. This community (Bratt) was such a big part of his life and played a part in the man he became.”
The Nelsons have set up an account at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union to accept donations for the college scholarships and monument in the park.
“I will learn from my son and this community and strive to be a better American and neighbor,” Scott Nelson said in a published letter of thanks. “Travis, you will always be your beautiful mom’s and my hero. We will miss you to the point we cannot describe but will join you, pawpaw, papa and the other heroes in heaven. My prayers go out to the rest of the troops, its time we bring these men and women home. God Bless America.”