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Marine Lance Cpl. Travis M. Nelson

Died August 18, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

19, of Pace, Fla., assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Aug. 18 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Fallen Marine’s body returns home

By Thyrie Bland
Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal

PENSACOLA, Fla. — 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 Cpl. 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.”

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