HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, Fla. 33621-5101
Release Number: 04-03-51
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A-10 Friendly Fire Investigation Completed
MacDill AFB – The investigation into a March 23, 2003 friendly fire incident between U.S. forces is complete. The investigation was thorough and deliberate, and has the concurrence of the CENTCOM leadership.
The investigation, ordered by U.S. Central Command and conducted by U.S. Air Forces, Central Command, thoroughly examined the circumstances surrounding an incident involving a U.S. A-10 aircraft firing on a company of U.S. Marines in An Nasiriyah, Iraq.
The investigation revealed that several factors contributed to this tragic event, including problematic communications links between U.S. forces and a battle plan that, due to unforeseen circumstances, changed as the situation unfolded.
The investigation determined that the pilots involved acted appropriately based on the information they possessed at the time of the incident.
The decision on possible administrative or disciplinary action, if any, with respect to any Marines involved, was deferred to Commander, Marine Corps Central Command.
A total of 18 Marines were killed and 17 were wounded. Eight of the deaths were verified as the result of enemy fire; of the remaining 10 Marines killed, investigators were unable to determine the cause of death as the Marines were also engaged in heavy fighting with the enemy at the time of the incident.
Of the 17 wounded, only one was conclusively determined to have been hit by friendly fire. Three Marines were wounded while inside vehicles that received both friendly and hostile fire, and the exact sequence and source of their injuries could not be determined.
U.S. Central Command mourns the loss of life and regrets the injury of our servicemembers resulting from this tragic event.
In March, Marine Corps officers came to the Gallatin home of David Nixon telling him that the they were unsure who fired the shots that killed his son, Patrick.
A report issued by the military’s U.S. Central Command said Patrick Nixon and as many as nine other Marines from his company, could have been killed when two Air Force attack jets were mistakenly ordered to fire missiles on vehicles carrying the American soldiers.
David Nixon contacted U.S. Sen. Bill Frist and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn’s offices to try to find answers that he believes could be found in tapes attached to the aircraft to film missions. These tapes are missing.
These tapes, Nixon said, could provide a timeline which could clarify which missiles hit Patrick’s vehicle first, American or Iraqi.
The tapes may also clarify what combination of circumstances prompted American planes to fire on the Marines that day in March 2003.
Questions about the circumstances surrounding Nixon’s death linger and Sumner County has honored the fallen Marine.
In 2003, his name was placed on the Sumner County Veterans’ Memorial with the names of other Sumner County residents.
In September 2004, the Sumner County Board of Commissioners dedicated the bridge spanning the Gallatin by-pass on State Route 386 in memory of Cpl. Nixon.
“It is only fitting that a bridge should be named for Patrick, since it was at a bridge where he gave his life, helping unlock the door to rid the world of that monster, Saddam Hussein,’’ David Nixon told The News Examiner.
An enormous American flag flapped in the background while the family of Cpl. Patrick Nixon – the first Tennessean killed in combat in Iraq – stood with tears in their eyes as a bridge was dedicated to the slain Marine.
“It is only fitting that a bridge should be named for Patrick, since it was at a bridge where he gave his life, helping unlock the door to rid the world of that monster, Saddam Hussein,” said David Nixon of Gallatin, Patrick Nixon’s father and himself a former Marine.
The Sumner County Board of Commissioners dedicated the bridge spanning the Gallatin By-Pass on State Route 386 in honor of Cpl. Nixon. The dedication ceremony was held yesterday at the top of the bridge.
Nixon explained that his son was always trying to bridge gaps by wanting his family and friends to get along, so it is only fitting that a bridge should symbolize the American spirit of getting along even with different viewpoints, religions and ideas.
“Our enemies hate that and can’t understand that,” said Nixon.
“Through time we will heal, but we will never, ever, ever forget, Semper Fi,” concluded Nixon.
Sumner County Executive Hank Thompson thanked the Nixon family for their sacrifice to the country.
“I will never forget the day we gathered in his memory and Ricky Skaggs led us in ‘Amazing Grace,’” Thompson said.
Emergency Management Director Ken Weidner presented the Nixon family with the flag that draped Patrick Nixon’s coffin as it was escorted during the time of the funeral.
Jerry A. Hill, administrative services assistant with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs talked about Nixon’s commitment and heritage.
“He chose to be a Marine, he chose to take an active part in defending our country. He follows three generations of commitment in the United States Marine Corps and he was prepared to give the full sacrifice,” said Hill.
“There is no higher calling, in my opinion, than to serve the United States in the military,” he said.
Ginger Nixon, Patrick’s sister talked about the continued support the family is receiving.
“His mother’s ashes have now been spread over his grave at Arlington Cemetery, and we know they are together again. Your support of our family has been wonderful and we couldn’t have done it without you. We need to continue to pray for the men and women stationed overseas,” she said.
Linda White, Patrick Nixon’s cousin, closed the ceremony with a solo rendition of ‘I Will Remember You.’
“The bridge symbolizes the tying of one generation to the next and it is fitting that the Iraqi War tribute should bridge the Vietnam Veterans Parkway,” said Bruce Parr, president of the Sumner County Vietnam Veterans who came to honor Nixon.
“He was our younger brother as all Marines are that have served since we have. We have come today to honor him,” said Wayne Georgiades another Vietnam veteran.
On March 23, 2003, Cpl. Nixon was part of a unit that was ambushed while trying to secure a bridge at Nasiriyah, Iraq. He was one of eight Marines declared missing and was confirmed dead on March 30, 2003. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Bridge to be named for Patrick R. Nixon
Motorists traveling state Highway 109 near Gallatin will soon be reminded that a local Marine died serving this country.
The state has decided to name the bridge over state Route 386 at Long Hollow Pike in memory of Marine Cpl. Patrick R. Nixon.
Nixon was killed in Iraq on March 23, 2003.
State Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner John Keys and Major Gen. Gus Hargett will join the Nixon family for the ceremony at the bridge at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The public is invited to attend.
“We are extremely proud of this, very honored for the family for what the state is doing for Pat in recognition of his sacrifice for this country,” said David Nixon, the fallen Marine’s father.
The father said the family is grateful to Keys, state Sen. Jo Ann Graves and Rep. Mike McDonald for leading the effort to name the bridge for the young Nixon.
However, it does not replace the loss of a son, the elder Nixon said.
“We would rather have Pat back. No bridge in the world is worth Pat, but at the same time we’re very mindful of what he did and why he did it,” the father said.
Both the House and Senate passed bills during their last legislative session to name a bridge after Nixon, the first Tennessean killed in the Iraq War during an ambush near Nasiriyah.
The 21-year-old was first listed as missing, and seven days later his family was informed by the Marine Corps that he had been killed.
The Marine was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. with full military honors.
Because of his heroic action in Iraq, the Marine was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
He was a member of the Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Friendly fire in Iraq may have killed Marine
Gallatin family shocked by revelation
Four days after the first anniversary of Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon's death in Iraq, his family learned that in the final moments of the young soldier's life, he was the target of both hostile and friendly fire.
A report issued by the military's U.S. Central Command yesterday indicated that Nixon and as many as nine other Marines in his company might have been killed when two Air Force attack jets were mistakenly ordered to fire missiles on vehicles carrying the American soldiers.
Patrick Nixon, 21, a 2001 graduate of Nashville's Overton High School, was the first Tennessean killed in the war in Iraq. His family in Gallatin, who were briefed by a Marine officer over the weekend, said the report was a shocker.
”We knew the final report was coming in, but we weren't prepared for what it said,” said David Nixon, father of the slain Marine mortar man.
The mistaken identity of the American troops by a Marine air traffic controller came on March 23, 2003, the Iraq war's deadliest day for American troops.
Nixon's unit, Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was under heavy enemy fire at Nasiriyah, Iraq, when a request for close air support was issued. The air controller on the ground ordered two Air Force A-10 pilots to fire missiles at the location.
The lengthy investigation recommended ”appropriate administrative or disciplinary action” against the air controller, who was not identified, and left it to the Marine Corps to decide what specific action to take.
Meanwhile, investigators determined that the A-10 pilots acted appropriately under the circumstances.
Eighteen Marines, including Nixon, were killed that day.
Of that number, investigators said they could be certain that eight were killed by hostile fire. The report could not conclusively state how many of the 10 were killed by the mistaken U.S. airstrikes. The report does not identify which group Nixon was among.
”The intensity of enemy fire, combined with friendly fire, makes it impossible to conclusively determine the exact sequence and source of fires that killed the other 10 Marines,” the report stated.
To the dead corporal's father, the lack of certainty is frustrating, particularly knowing that two videotapes from cameras onboard the A-10s are missing. Nixon said he thinks those tapes would have answered many questions.
General John Abizaid, the head of Central Command, wrote in a memorandum attached to the investigation report that the lack of video evidence ”did hamper investigative efforts.”
The investigators also noted numerous ”communications problems throughout the (Marine) battalion.”
”But here's what's important. Whether that missile hit first or hit last, he was still targeted, and the vehicle and the Marines in there were targeted. The time line is not important,” David Nixon said.
”We know from eyewitness accounts from soldiers who were there that day that the missile hit Pat's vehicle. We know that Patrick died along with the other Marines.”
Patrick Nixon was buried in April at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
David Nixon said he felt no anger toward the Marine Corps or the pilots.
”We know they didn't intentionally go out to attack and kill American soldiers, to kill our son. What we don't understand is the communications problems that went on that day have not been explained to our satisfaction,” he said.
Report tells how communications failures cost lives
March 23, 2003, was a day when everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Marines in Cpl. Patrick Nixon's unit.
On that day in the town of Nasiriyah, as the American advance pushed into the heart of Iraq toward Baghdad, 18 Americans from Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment were killed. Among the fallen was Nixon, an Overton High School graduate who became the first Tennessean to die in last year's war.
Up to 10 of those servicemen, including Nixon, could have been killed by missiles fired from two U.S. Air Force attack planes whose pilots were mistakenly ordered to fire on the Marines, a new Pentagon inquiry said Monday.
The Marine's father, David Nixon of Gallatin, said this week the report leaves many questions unanswered in his mind about how Company C came under friendly fire. He said he will continue to press for more answers.
According to the voluminous final report of the military investigating board that has dissected the tragedy, the primary cause of the mistake was a cascading chain of failures to communicate.
Among the major findings:
• The battalion's mobile command vehicle lost its radio communication when the vehicle became disabled — at one point the report says it was stuck in the mud — under high-voltage power lines. The electromagnetic interference from the power lines blocked radio messages from the unit's command post.
• Because of the lack of communication, leaders of the attack were unaware that Company C had advanced as far as it had in its attack into Nasiriyah.
• Company C did not have its own forward air controller — its battalion had one, and Company B had one, but not Company C.
An air controller moves with the ground troops and acts as a ground observer for American warplanes overhead. The controller helps direct the planes to shoot or bomb the enemy immediately in front of the American advance.
Investigators said if the company had an air controller, ”it is likely that the friendly fire incident would either have been mitigated or completely avoided.”
According to the report, the battalion's objective that day was to secure two bridges, one over the Euphrates River and another over the Saddam Canal. These bridges led to a critical area of the city that U.S. forces needed to control as they stormed Baghdad.
Company B was to replace an initial strike team and would be followed by the battalion's forward command post, then Company A and, last, Company C.
Company B charged across the river bridge, but maneuvered off the main road to avoid an ”ambush alley.” Shortly thereafter, their advance into the city was halted when vehicles got stuck in mud. The forward command vehicle, which had followed Company B's advance, also got stuck.
As Company A secured the river bridge, the men of Company C then moved across the bridge, thinking that Company B was ahead of them. They pushed through the ”ambush alley,” taking heavy enemy fire.
Unbeknownst to them, they had become the lead team. The problem was, no one else knew where they were.
”As these forces entered the city, their situational awareness became clouded due to deviations from the planned scheme of maneuver, the urban environment and problematic communication links,” the report concluded.
While Company C hunkered down, the battalion's air officer called Company B's forward air controller, asking for air support. Based on information he knew of the battle action plan, the B commander identified his company as the lead element.
”Therefore believing that only enemy forces were ahead, the B commander cleared the air controller to engage enemy targets north of the canal,” the report stated.
Two A-10s made several damaging passes before being ordered to stop. The pilots have not been found at fault, but the investigating board said the Marine Corps should consider administrative or disciplinary action against Company B's forward air controller.
According to the report, eight of the 18 Marines who died succumbed to enemy fire. The exact cause of death for the other 10, including Nixon, remains unclear.
”The intensity of the enemy fire, combined with friendly fire, makes it impossible to conclusively determine the exact sequence and source of fires that killed the other 10,” the report concluded.
The immediate fates of Nixon and others from Company C were unknown for several days after the incident. After his remains were recovered, his family was told he had died in action. Nixon is buried in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.
Twin Burials Salute a Singular Cause
At Arlington, Mourners Honor Iraq War Veterans Who Answered the Call to Duty
Tammie Eslinger kisses her hand before touching the coffin of fiance Air National Guard Major Gregory Stone during his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
They died differently, one killed in a fierce firefight in Iraq, the other in a grenade attack by a fellow airman in Kuwait, but Marine Lance Corporal Patrick Nixon and Air National Guard Major Gregory Stone were buried side by side yesterday in the soil of Arlington National Cemetery.
On a breezy, sun-drenched morning, Stone's flag-draped casket, borne on a horse-drawn caisson with a riderless horse leading the way, was the first to arrive at the waiting graves. As a band played “America the Beautiful” in the distance, more than 200 relatives, friends and military personnel gathered to honor the memory of the 40-year-old Idaho man.
The chaplain, Air Force Captain Mark Thomas, said Stone “leaves a legacy worth modeling: husband, loving father, an obedient son and a proud American.” Calling Arlington a fitting place for Stone, Thomas said he would “rest here with those of like mind and determination, the determination to see this nation remain a beacon of light to a world searching true liberty.”
Brigadier General Gary L. Sayler, commander of the 124th Wing of the Idaho Air National Guard, presented Stone's Bronze Star to his family, including his two children, Alex, 11, and Joshua, 7. At the close of the lonely call of Taps, flags were presented to Stone's fiancee, Tammie Eslinger, and his parents, Richard Stone and Betty Lenzi.
Eslinger walked slowly to the grave and laid a bouquet of red roses on the casket, then walked away as family members silently touched it one last time. The last mourner to approach, in a wheelchair with his left leg heavily bandaged, was Army Captain Andres Marton, who was injured in the attack that killed Stone.
Marton saluted Stone and was wheeled away.
Stone died March 25, two days after a fellow officer tossed a grenade into the officers' tent. Another soldier, Army Captain Christopher S. Seifert, 27, died in the attack, and 14 were injured. Sergeant Hasan K. Akbar has been charged in the attack.
“People are still shocked that one of our own turned on one of our own,” Air Force Staff Sergeant Mitch Kelly said after the ceremony. He, with five colleagues, drove from Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina to pay his respects.
Air Force Senior Sergeant. Mike McKee, who had worked with Stone, called him “one of those guys where you wish you had 100 more like him.” McKee said that “there's a little more bitterness” because of how Stone died, but that “the way it happened ultimately doesn't matter. The result is the same.”
The result, as Marine Chaplain Robert Beltram described it an hour later at the adjacent grave, was the “greatest sacrifice to this great nation.”
Beltram remembered Patrick Nixon, 21, as a man with a “strong sense of self” and a strong sense of loyalty to the Marines. Nixon, who served with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, died in battle March 23 when his unit was ambushed by Iraqi soldiers as they pretended to surrender near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.
More than 70 family members and friends followed his coffin as it was carried to his grave site by six fellow Marines. As jets streaked across the sky and wind swayed the funeral flowers, Nixon was remembered as a young man who always wanted to be a Marine.
Beltram said Nixon, a native of Gallatin, Tennessee, who moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with his now-late mother, planned to be a history teacher. “He has written history now,” Beltram told the mourners. “His name is etched in the annals of our history.”
After the brief eulogy, Taps called for the second time that morning, and a rifle volley cracked again. Then the six Marines folded the flag from Nixon's casket and presented it to his grandmother, Mary Nixon, who wiped away tears. Sitting next to her was the slain Marine's father, David Nixon, who wept as he was handed his son's Purple Heart from Brigadier General Maston Robeson.
A young mourner placed two flowers — one yellow, one red — on the casket. The wind blew them off, but they were gently replaced. After almost everyone had left, Lieuenant James Reid, Nixon's platoon commander, knelt silently at the grave.
Stone and Nixon were the fifth and sixth Iraq War veterans buried at Arlington. Eight more burials have been scheduled.
Marine Corps Corporal Patrick Nixon ‘s casket is carried to his grave by the honor
guard Thursday, April 17, 2003 at Arlington National Cemetery
Marine First Lieutenant James Ried kneels at the casket containing the body of
U.S. Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon, after the funeral service in Arlington National
Cemetery April 17, 2003. Reid was Nixon's platoon commander when he was killed
in Iraq during an ambush, while advancing on Nassiriya on March 23, 2003.
Family and friends gather and mourn at the casket containing the
body of U.S. Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon after a funeral service
in Arlington National Cemetery
Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon's family, grandmother Mary
Nixon, left, father David Nixon, and stepmother Debra Nixon.
Slain Soldier’s Family Leaves For Arlington
The family of a local Marine killed in the war with Iraq left for Arlington, Virginia Wednesday morning for the Marine’s burial.
The Marine, Patrick Nixon, 21, of Gallatin, will be buried Thursday in Arlington National Cemetery.
Two Gallatin police officers escorted the Nixons to Nashville International Airport Wednesday morning.
Before Nixon left for war, he told his family he wanted to buried in Arlington if anything happened to him.
“This is going to be his final resting place, and it is hard for us, but we're very honored that this is what Patrick wanted,” said Debra Nixon, Patrick Nixon’s stepmother.
Nixon’s family will receive the four medals he earned while overseas including the Purple Heart.
Patrick R. Nixon came home to be eulogized as an American hero — the first Tennessean to lose his life in the fight to free the people of Iraq.
A military honor guard bears the casket
of Corporal Patrick R. Nixon into College
Heights Baptist Church for a memorial
service Tuesday morning.
Nixon, a Corporal, was killed on March 23 during an ambush near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.
Listed first as missing, his family was notified seven days later he had made the ultimate sacrifice.
During a memorial service Tuesday in a sanctuary adorned with American flags at College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Nixon, 21, was remembered as a caring, young man who chose to serve his country and understood all that choice could mean.
“We are honored by his life, by his sacrifice. We are indebted to him and indebted to his family. We honor him and we honor the Lord,” said Dr. Larry Gilmore, senior pastor of College Heights Baptist.
Nixon was described by the Rev. Mike Blankenship, pastor of the Gallatin First Church of the Nazarene, as a young man who laid down his life for people he did not know.
Blankenship said shortly after Nixon took over the position of a wounded friend, “he laid down his life.”
Representing the U.S. Marine Corps, Major Will Randall said throughout history, American men and women have stood up for freedom.
“Patrick is an American patriot, a hero. He will be missed by his family and his Corps,” Randall said.
In reading a letter by the commandant of the Marine Corps, General W.M. Hagey, Randall said Nixon’s death was a tragedy which has touched the heart of every Marine.
“Patrick and all his fellow Marines are heroes,” the letter continued, stating all Marines have the characteristics of courage, loyalty and enthusiasm for their work.
In a sanctuary filled with family, friends and some who didn’t even know the Marine, but were touched by his death, Nixon’s father, David thanked the community for all their support.
“I thank you on behalf of all my family for all the hundreds of cards and letters sent. We appreciate those who have assisted our family,” David Nixon said. “Always know you are a part of our family.”
Remembering his son as a strong, good man, David Nixon said Patrick followed his dream of being a Marine.
David Nixon said in the days since his family was informed of Patrick’s death one thing has become abundantly clear, “Pat was everyone’s Marine.”
Joe Nixon remembered his brother as a son who helped care for their mother, Holly Woodruff, who passed away in 1996.
Saying he was uncomfortable with public speaking, Joe Nixon added, “Pat would have done it for me,” and closed his remarks with the Marine motto, “Semper Fi.”
Bill Hudson, remembered his step-brother as a, “once skinny, big-eared, average kid,” whose face was now on every television and is now an American hero.
In closing the service, Gilmore described Nixon as a “caretaker” –- caring for his mother who died when he was 13.
Nixon will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. on Thursday with his family in attendance. He was a member of the Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Because of his heroic action in Iraq, Nixon was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon, the first Tennessean to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was honored with a funeral service at College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tennessee, April 15, 2003. Nixon died March 23, 2003, in an attack as his unit was trying to secure a bridge near Nasiriyah and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C., April 17. 2003 .
Marine Cpl. Patrick Nixon, the first Tennessean to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was honored with a funeral service at College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tenn., April 15. Nixon died March 23 in an attack as his unit was trying to secure a bridge near Nasiriyah and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C., April 17, 2003.
Before David Nixon sent his son off to war, he admonished him: “Don't try to be a hero.”
But when duty required a hero, Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon became one.
On March 23, in the early days of the war against Iraq, the 21-year-old Tennessean rushed to the aid of a wounded friend and took over his position, the Rev. Michael Blankenship said at Nixon's funeral Tuesday.
“Shortly afterward, Patrick gave his life,” Blankenship said. “He laid down his life for his friend.”
Nixon, the first Tennessean killed in the war, was remembered as an American patriot who willingly died for freedom.
More than three dozen U.S. flags and a huge assortment of red and white flowers decorated the College Heights Baptist Church where about 350 mourners memorialized Nixon.
As “God Bless America” played, six Marines clad in dress blues and white hats carried Nixon's flag-draped casket to the front.
“He wasn't supposed to come home this way,” Nixon's teary-eyed father told his pastor a few days earlier.
But the Marine knew the worst could happen, telling his dad before he left that he might not return.
“He was willing to do that,” David Nixon said at the funeral before reading a poem titled “For Those I Have Left Behind.”
The Rev. Larry Gilmore, pastor of College Heights Baptist Church urged the mourners to consider the corporal's sacrifice in light of the smiling faces of newly liberated Iraqis.
“War always brings sorrow and sadness, much destruction and much loss,” Gilmore said. “Yet all that is lost cannot be compared to the hope of freedom.”
He called Nixon a student of history “who had read about the heroes who were buried in Arlington,” the national cemetery where the Marine will be laid to rest Thursday.
“He talked about being one of them someday, maybe when he was 80,” Gilmore said.
Nixon was one of at least six Marines killed March 23 when their unit was ambushed while trying to secure a bridge near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. His body was found March 30. Three others from his Camp Lejeune, N.C., unit remain classified as missing.
Also killed were Private Jonathan L. Gifford, 30, of Macon, Illinois; Private First Class Tamario D. Burkett, 21, of Buffalo, New York; Lance Corporal Donald J. Cline Jr., 21, of Sparks, Nevada; Private Nolen R. Hutchings, 20, of Boiling Springs, South Carolina; and Sergeant Brendon Reiss, 21, of Casper, Wyoming. Reiss' wife, Tensley, has been living with relatives in Cleveland, Tennessee.
Marine Major Will Randall said Nixon did not die in vain.
“He served his fellow Marines and his country to give the Iraqi people their freedom,” Randall told the mourners. “Corporal Patrick Nixon will be remembered as an American patriot and a hero.”
Nixon enlisted with the Marines soon after graduation from Overton High School in Nashville in 1999, joining a family tradition of military service.
His great-grandfather served in World War I, his grandfather in World War II and his father in Vietnam.
As a boy, Nixon lived in the Philadelphia area and cared for his terminally ill mother, nursing her with his humor, said his brother, Joe Nixon. After Holly M. Woodruff, who was divorced from David Nixon, died in 1996, Patrick Nixon returned from Holland, Pennsylvania, to Gallatin, about 30 miles northeast of Nashville, to live with his father.
“Patrick was a caretaker,” Gilmore said in his eulogy. “He was one who wanted to defend the underdog, one who wanted to go out for those who were oppressed and help deliver them.
“He knew the importance of combat and he knew the importance of getting rid of Saddam Hussein.”
The stern-faced Marine in uniform displayed on the church's two big screens was a far cry from the real Nixon – the young man who loved to joke around and play with his nieces, Gilmore said.
“He sat down with his nieces before he left,” Gilmore said. “He let them know he was going to protect their freedom.”
Nixon's brother Bill, who served in the Army, made one request of the crowd.
“For anyone who goes to a movie with Mel Gibson or goes to the church of their choice,” he said, “never forget that it was my brother's life that paid the price for those freedoms.”
Lawmakers Donate to Local Fallen Marine's Family
A borrowed Marine helmet sat on top of daily calendars in the Tennessee House chambers. Before lawmakers finished their business Thursday, the helmet was passed around like a hat.
The money put in it was for the family of Corporal Patrick Nixon. The 21-year-old Middle Tennessee marine was the first soldier from the volunteer state killed in Iraq, fighting near the town of Nasiriyah. He'll be buried next week at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The family has to travel there and travel back home, and obviously there is considerable expense associated with that, so I thought the general assembly should help,” said Representative Mike McDonald.
House members helped by filling the Marine helmet with more than $1,600. The state Senate did the same Wednesday, but one lawmaker who has grieved with the Nixon family wanted to do more.
Diane Black represents the House district where Nixon family lives. She pooled various frequent flyer miles for ten round trip tickets to Washington so that family members could attend the soldier's burial.
“My thing is that any little thing that I can do to take off the pressures or the arrangements, that's what I have been trying to do,” Representative Black said.
Patrick Nixon died for his country, but he won't be forgotten in the state where he lived. The young marine will be remembered Tuesday at a memorial service in Gallatin. His burial is Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery across the river from Washington.
arine Lance Corporal Patrick R. Nixon, 21, of Nashville, Tenn., has been reclassified as killed in action from missing. Nixon was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. His unit was engaged in operations on March 23, 2003, on the outskirts of An Nasiriyah in Iraq. His remains were recovered on March 30,2003.
Older brother recalls Nixon as son devoted to dying mom
When Joe Nixon got the call that his brother was missing in action in Iraq, he sat down and wrote his brother a letter and mailed it the next morning.
”In signing it, I put that I knew that he had looked up to me when he was little, and it was my turn to look up to him now,” Nixon said.
A few days later, Corporal Patrick Nixon of Nashville was declared killed in action. He and other Marines in his unit had been ambushed March 23, 2003, near Nasiriyah.
The Marine from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, will be buried April 17, 2003, in Arlington National Cemetery, his family said.
Joe Nixon, who lives in Durham, North Carolina, yesterday remembered his younger brother, ”Pat,” as a young man mature beyond his 21 years.
As a young boy, Pat Nixon cared for and looked after his divorced mother, Holly M. Woodruff, while she was terminally ill. She died when Pat was just a teenager.
When Woodruff first learned she was sick, doctors said she had six months to live, Joe Nixon recalled. ”But she held on for about six years,” he said. ”A lot of that is due to Pat. He did everything he could at his young age to keep her happy.”
Thursday at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in a memorial service for Marines killed in Iraq, Joe Nixon carried with him a 5-by-7 photograph of Pat with their mom, who died in 1996. He gave the photograph to President Bush, who spoke at the service.
Holly Woodruff raised her sons while she was dying, and she was committed to building the bond between the two of them, said her sister, Alison Chmielewski. ”Holly raised those boys to know that they always needed to be there for each other, and neither one of them ever forgot that,” Chmielewski said.
Pat and Joe's parents, who had lived in Nashville, divorced when Pat was 6. While his mom was ill, she and Pat lived for a few years with Chmielewski and her husband, Charlie, just outside Philadelphia. After his mother's death, Pat moved back to Nashville for a time, at first living with his dad and stepmother, then with the family of a close friend, before enlisting in the Marines. Pat's father and stepmother continue to live in Gallatin.
Joe Nixon recalled that his own service in the Marine Corps led his brother, who was younger by 10 years, to enlist in the Marines. ”It was because of me,” Joe Nixon said. ”I don't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing.” In the Marines, Pat Nixon held the same job, mortarman, as his brother. When Pat Nixon was promoted to corporal, he wore his older brother's chevron insignia on his uniform. In fact, Pat was wearing his brother's Marine Corps dress uniform in a picture that has been shown widely in the media, Alison Chmielewski said. ”Joe gave it to him when he graduated from Parris Island,” the South Carolina home of the Marines' boot camp.
Joe Nixon remembered when Pat was assigned to carry his Marine company's guidon, a small flag that comes with a big honor, ”for his sense of morale, and trying to keep everyone else motivated,” his brother said. On long marches with his unit, ”he'd be the one in the back, probably, with the ones that were having a hard time, telling them to keep up.”
Pat had a soft side, too, and was something of a class clown, Joe Nixon said. ”He was a typical American, red-blooded boy, as far as mischief and antics and stuff, but when it came time to be serious and respectful, he knew the difference.”
Even though he spent several years growing up in Pennsylvania after his parents divorced, Pat was always proud of his Southern heritage. ”He loved to brag about being an Irishman, but he was always proud of being a good ol' Southern boy,” his aunt said. He also had a lot of pride in the country and had been ready to go to battle since September 11 if it was necessary, she said.
Joe Nixon also recalled that his brother wasn't afraid to voice his opinion and stand his ground about what he thought was right. And his brother knew he had a job to do in Iraq.
”It was a good purpose that we were going over there,” Joe Nixon said. ”It was to protect the home front.”
rlington burial set for Marine
Gallatin man to be laid to rest in military cemetery
GALLATIN, Tennessee – The first Tennessean killed in the war against Iraq will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, his family said.
Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon, 21, will be laid to rest alongside other fallen Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen, said his father, David Nixon.
“To know a loved one will actually be buried along with all those people who have served this country, it's an incredible thing,” he said.
Patrick Nixon died after his unit was ambushed March 23 in An Nasiriyah, where Marines were trying to secure a bridge.
He was listed as missing until Sunday, when the Marines informed his family he had been found dead.
The Defense Department confirmed Wednesday that Nixon was killed in action.
Nixon's family will hold a funeral service for him in his hometown of Gallatin, about 30 miles northeast of Nashville, before his burial in Arlington.
The family does not know how long it will take the military to return his body to the UnitedStates from Kuwait.
Nixon was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
More than a dozen of his relatives plan to attend a memorial service today at Camp Lejeune for service members who have been killed in Iraq.
President Bush is expected to speak at the service.
The base has suffered the most casualties so far in the Iraq war.
The Pentagon reported Tuesday that 46 American service members have been killed, 16 are missing and seven have been captured.
David Nixon thinks about his son and tries not to assume the worst.
He talks of setting a place at the dinner table for the day when Patrick Nixon, 21, comes home and breaks bread with his family again.
”He told me he understood this was an important thing they were doing,” Nixon said as he sat next to one of his other two sons, Bill Hudson, in his living room yesterday afternoon. ”He understood it was dangerous. But it was his job. It is his job. I'm not going to talk about him in the past tense.”
Nixon and his wife, Debra, learned Wednesday afternoon that Patrick, a Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, was missing in Iraq. The Overton High School graduate is among eight Marines whom the Pentagon officially listed as missing Thursday night, four days after they were ambushed by Iraqi forces while trying to secure a bridge in Nasiriyah.
The news came when two Marines arrived at the couple's house. Debra Nixon called her husband at work. He rushed home, fearing his youngest child was dead and ”praying, ‘God, just let him be wounded.' ”
Nearly 48 hours later, the Nixons still didn't know if Patrick was unharmed, wounded or worse. ”God, every time that phone rings, I die,” David Nixon said.
It rang often. The callers — relatives, friends, a Marine Sergeant, Governor Phil Bredesen's office, reporters — offered greetings, questions and expressions of prayerful support. But no news.
”Everybody's just trying to stay busy,” said Hudson, 33, a former sergeant in the Army's 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. ”If you sit and watch the news and hope to see something, it drives you crazy.”
Based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for the past two years, Patrick is the latest in a long line of family members who have served the nation. A great-grandfather fought in World War I, followed by a grandfather in World War II. David Nixon was in Vietnam, while Hudson went to Bosnia and Kosovo, and another brother, Joe, preceded Patrick in the Marines. They all returned alive. Survival seemed assured.
”We've had so many people go to war and come home,” Hudson said. ”So you just don't think about it.”
Family members said Patrick took his leadership responsibilities very seriously. His sister, Ginger Ford, of Gallatin, said he had promised that when shooting began, ”I'm not going to stand behind everybody. I'm going to stand in front of everybody.”
He loves to read history books and has talked about teaching the subject one day. But when he graduated from Overton in 2000, he decided to join the Marines.
”When he went in, I'm sure it was about getting away from home,” David Nixon said. ”But once he got in, that all changed.”
As Patrick's father, brother and sister spoke, his mother returned from a trip to find American flags. She wasn't successful, but she did find yellow and white ribbons, which she arranged in a bunch. The white represented someone wounded in battle; the yellow, as always in wartime, stood for supporting the troops.
They were only a few of the symbols of hope around the house. A vase full of red, white and blue flowers sat on a table in the living room. A few family members put pins through thin ribbons showing the Stars and Stripes. Even a girl who delivered a pizza the other day has called since then to offer her support.
Each family member has his or her own vision of Patrick's return. Debra Nixon said her son had always enjoyed lying on the sofa with his head in her lap. She would ”give anything, just anything,” to see him there again.
Ford, who sent her brother a package of Baby Wipes, Copenhagen snuff and spicy potato chips Wednesday morning, said she would keep up the mailings. She dreamed Thursday night that Patrick slid in the back door like Kramer, the Seinfeld character he loved to imitate.
And David Nixon sets that place at the table. He's inspired by the family of Elizabeth Smart, the Utah girl who was abducted and missing for nine months, then, miraculously, was found March 12.
”Patrick will be home with us,” the hopeful father said. ”And he'll be having dinner with us again.”
NIXON, PATRICK RAY
CPL US MARINE CORPS
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 07/10/2000 – 03/23/2003
DATE OF BIRTH: 08/06/1981
DATE OF DEATH: 03/23/2003
DATE OF INTERMENT: 04/17/2003
BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 7865
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard