Legislature gives somber recognition to families of 19 Utah fallen soldiers
Hayden's grandmother, Jodie Nelson, of Brigham City, said Hayden recently dressed up like his dad in camouflage for a superhero day at school.
Sgt. Nelson joined the Army in 2004, telling his mom after signing up that he loved his country and wanted to serve full time instead of the National Guard, which was his original intent.
He served a tour in Afghanistan, joined the reserves in North Carolina and then transferred to the Utah National Guard in July 2012 to be closer to his sons living in Utah with their mother. He got to spend a few months with them before he died in December.
"It was such a blessing to have been able to enjoy his company and give him a hug and be able to be together as a family again," said his father, Ken Nelson.
Jodie Nelson said her son loved to read and learn and work with computers. He loved jumping out of airplanes and told her she needed to put that on her bucket list. He was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues, his mother said.
She and her husband both expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be with other families in the same situation.
"It's good to be with other people that feel what you're feeling and that are bleeding like you're bleeding because it's very, very hard — probably one of the hardest things that we've ever gone through in our life," Jodie Nelson said.
The families gathered in the House chamber as well, where Wilcox called this type of gratitude a "solemn duty and even a sacred honor."
"Freedom is a precious gift bestowed upon us at an enormous cost. We must never forget that our ability to pursue happiness is a direct product of the blood that they shed," he said.
Wilcox gave special praise to those who raised the 19 fallen soldiers who left a legacy of courage.
"Because of their courage and their fire, because of their sacrifice," Wilcox said, "we remain safe in the land of the free. We become the land of the brave."
Those soldiers who were honored are: Sgt. Shawn M. Nelson, Staff Sgt. Michael L. Valdes. Lt. Joshua R. Wall, Spc. David M. Gannon, Pfc. Cody J. Towse, Spc. Jeremy T. Olsen, Staff Sgt. Christian L. Larsen, 1st Sgt. Tracy L. Stapley, Spc. Tommy Kidman, Spc. Jal W. Oomrigar, Staff Sgt. Terry T. Groulx, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Richard C. Isaksen, Tech Sgt. Gregory M. Littlefield, Sgt. Brett Kelly Nickell, Spc. Curtis A. Smith, Staff Sgt. Zackary S. Barton, Sgt. Matthew C. Larson, Sgt. Landon L. Henscheid, and 2nd Lt. Vernal J. Bird.
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