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This weekend we said goodbye to one of the most genuine, sincere and faithful servants that I have ever met. Captain Matthew Nielson was killed in Iraq June 29th from indirect fire. Two other men were killed in this senseless act, three lives lost way to early. Matt was returning home in August and excited about my brother’s wedding in September. The one thing I learned about Matt while attending his visitation, celebration of life memorial, and burial services is he truly touched every life he came into contact with. Matt was always sporting a huge, contagious smile and I never saw him lose his way. He could teach all of us a lesson in enjoying life and friends.
Image via The Des Moines Register, photographer Justin Hayworth
One of the most powerful things—that always brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes, and still does as I’m typing this—is the support for a fallen solider by those that didn’t even know Matt. The support and honor for Matt from the American Legion Riders Iowa Chapter, men and women from around the state standing outside the funeral home, community center, and burial grounds proudly holding American flags in the piercing summer sun, some even wearing buttons of loved ones they’ve lost. These men and woman were there to show their support for our fallen soldier and ward off crazy Westboro Baptist Church protestors. When walking past these loyal Americans my parents were able to say thank you for their support. I just welled up, full of emotion, I hope they understand how much that meant to all of us.
Matt’s life was lost to early, but he died supporting something he truly believed in. I keep thinking, “That could have been my brother” or any other loved one still overseas. Something this humbling really puts life into perspective, living like Matt did: loving his neighbors and truly taking the time to spend it with others. We shared great stories of Matt and his parents and family learned the love Matt poured on everyone he met. He was an outgoing man, always keeping in touch, a true and loyal friend.
Matt was buried in the breathtaking Iowa Veterans Memorial cemetery, a true vision of God’s bountiful landscape. Rest In Peace Matt and thank you for your service to our country. In death you realize how much of an impact some have had on your life, you will not be forgotten.