Thursday, March 04, 2010

Marine Lance Cpl. Nigel K. Olsen

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Nigel K. Olsen, 21, of Orem, Utah

LCpl Olsen was assigned to the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died March 4, 2010 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations.

A company of Marine reservists from Utah has suffered its second death this week. Nigel Olsen, 21, of Salem was killed Wednesday in the volatile Helmand Province.

Olsen's death comes two days after the death on another Marine from the Camp Williams-based Charlie Company of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Carlos Aragon, 19, of Orem was on a foot patrol when he stepped on a pressure-activated homemade explosive.

The two Marines had been students together at Mountain View High School in Orem, where Olsen graduated in 2007 and Aragon graduated in 2009, according to the two Marines' social networking pages.

The picture of the 6-year-old boy on the beach standing at attention and giving the camera a smart salute tells you everything you need to know about Lance Cpl. Nigel K. Olsen, said his sister, Stacy Hansen.

"At the age of 3, he knew what he wanted to do," Hansen said. "He wanted to serve his country."

Hansen said her brother joined the Marine Reserve after his high school graduation, but his interest in the military was a lifelong passion.

"He would run around the neighborhood in his camos, playing war with the neighborhood kids," she said. "He was a great brother."

During a recent telephone call, Hansen said Olsen had complained about not being as involved in some of the fighting as he would have liked. "The last time my mom talked to him, he was upset because they were not able to be in a gunbattle," she said. "They ended up being in the thick of it."

In his spare time, he liked playing Xbox and spending time with his family. "He loved Sunday dinners at my mom's house and playing with all of his nieces and nephews," she said.

Olsen moved to Salem two years ago with his parents, Todd and Kim Olsen, and lived there when he wasn't on training exercises. He also took classes at Utah Valley University.

The Olsen family hadn't been in its new home for long. But in this tight-knit town in southern Utah County, it doesn't take long for strangers to feel like friends and for friends to feel like family. And Kim and Todd Olsen made it easy to get close.

So when the news came Thursday morning that the Olsens' youngest son, Nigel, had been killed in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province the previous day, word spread quickly throughout the town. Flags were lowered at government buildings and raised along Main Street. Neighbors adorned the Olsen family's home in red, white and blue. A group of teenage girls taped heart-shaped messages of love and support to the family's front door.

And as family members traveled to Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, to await the arrival of the 21-year-old Marine's body, the residents of Salem gathered together to mourn. And to pray.

"It has been difficult for this entire town," said Bret MacCabe, bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward that the Olsen family has attended since moving to Salem shortly after Nigel's 2007 graduation from Mountain View High School in Orem.

MacCabe said that just about everyone in this predominantly Mormon community knew Nigel Olsen, who made many of the local girls swoon when he attended church in his dress blue uniform and broke from his usually quiet demeanor to share his testimony with fellow parishioners.

"Any guy looks good in dress blues, but he looked particularly good," said 16-year-old Adeline Lamb, who described the young man she adored as "sweet and caring and really proud of what he was doing."

But it was Olsen's quiet nature that was striking to so many of those who got to know him.

"He was very unassuming," said family friend Mark Bracken. "He was fun to be with, but he didn't say much. When you'd ask him a question, you would get a very short response. It wasn't rude or anything, just always to the point."

"He was so, so quiet," remembered Karen Taylor, a neighbor who volunteered to sew the patches onto Olsen's uniforms. "His mom always said it was because she was quiet and his dad was a quiet person too."

But the silence from Afghanistan -- where her son's unit was sometimes cut off from communications for long periods of time -- was worrisome to Kim Olsen, who wrote on her Facebook page that she once went three weeks without hearing from her forward-deployed son.

After news came that another Marine from the Camp Williams-based Charlie Company of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion -- fellow Mountain View High School graduate Carlos Aragon -- was killed in an improvised explosive attack on Monday, Kim Olsen worried even more.

As she waited for word from her son, Olsen wrote that she was having a "hard time keeping it together when I heard about," Aragon's death. "He and his family are in our prayers."

Within 24 hours, it was her family that was being prayed for by friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers across the country -- and by just about everyone in Salem.

"We're all just praying so hard for them right now, that they will have some peace," MacCabe said. "They have made such a tremendous sacrifice. And so now what we want to do is to be here for them, however they need us to be."

Marine Lance Cpl. Nigel K. Olsen was killed in action on 3/4/10.

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