Blooming Prairie brothers reflect on their service
Memorial Day is a day to honor those who gave their lives in service to their country. After a ceremony at Blooming Prairie Cemetery, hundreds gathered at the Servicemen’s Club to honor 12 distinguished veterans with quilts of valor.
Among those receiving a quilt of valor were brothers and Majors Tony and Luke Nelson, who together have served the country for more than 25 years.
Tony Nelson, a 2001 graduate of Blooming Prairie High School (BPHS), said one of the reasons he enlisted in the U.S. Army was attending Memorial Day and Fourth of July ceremonies every year with his family.
“I think it rubbed off on me a little bit and then seeing some of the events that were happening in the late 90s and early 2000s, that’s what really got me interested in looking into going the military route,” he said.
Luke Nelson, a 2004 graduate of BPHS, agreed.
“I was a tenth-grader on 9/11 and I would say that was the most significant influence for me to join and serve was going through that as a teenager,” he said.
He said he wanted to serve straight out of high school, but after consulting with his parents, he went to college and then law school before deciding that he wanted to be a military lawyer called a Judge Advocate (JAG).
Meanwhile, Tony Nelson has spent the last 16 years in the Army. After completing two combat tours in Afghanistan, he was a part of a Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group in the Philippines. His third and current assignment is working at the Pentagon in Washington. He will be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel this summer.
“It’s an extremely different, but rewarding lifestyle, moving around every three of four years. Being able to see the world has been one of the primary benefits while still serving the country. Being able to see how different cultures live, how the various challenges that they have in developing countries compared to what we have here. It makes you appreciate a lot [what we have] here back in the United States,” he said.
Tony Nelson also said the continuing educational opportunities available to active military members and veterans are another reason why he and his wife have decided to stay active in the military.
Luke Nelson is also still active in the military, but five years ago, he decided to scale back; he now serves his country via reserve duty.
“I decided to stay in because I feel like if I wasn’t putting on the uniform, every so often, there’d be a piece of me that would be missing,” he said, adding, “I really wanted to stay in the reserves and serve in a part-time role.”
Even in a part-time role, he said serving his country is extremely rewarding and honorable.
“I look at my part-time job as more important to me, my development and my way of life than my own civilian job. I look at [serving in the military] as much more honorable and I would encourage anybody to do it if they have any interest in it,” he said.
Likewise, Tony Nelson urges others to follow in his footsteps and serve their country.
“It’s a tremendous honor to put on the uniform every day and know that you’re making an impact on what’s going on globally,” he said. “And in some way, shape or form I would encourage everybody to serve in their community, whether it’s in active duty, reserve duty, National Guard or serving within a local community organization even if it’s not military-related.”