Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Air Force Capt. Nathan J. Nylander

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Capt. Nathan J. Nylander, 35, of Hockley, Texas

Captain Nylander was assigned to 25th Operational Weather Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; died April 27, 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained from gunfire from an Afghan military trainee.

D-M honors weatherman shot, killed in Afghanistan
Carmen Duarte Arizona Daily Star

Miriam Nylander let her heart speak, painting a picture of her late husband - Capt. Nathan J. Nylander - that touched some 600 hearts Friday morning at his memorial service at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

"Nathan was a true airman. At 18, he joined the Air Force," said the widow, dressed in black, speaking in a proud, strong voice that filled the hangar where officers, enlisted personnel, family and friends came to pay their respects.

Nylander came from a military family with relatives on his father's and mother's side both serving their country and some paying the ultimate sacrifice, she said.

At age 35, her husband was one of nine Americans killed by an Afghan military pilot who opened fire during a meeting at Kabul International Airport on April 27. The shooter was said to be distraught over his personal finances.

In Tucson, Nylander was a meteorologist with D-M's 25th Operational Weather Squadron. In Afghanistan, he was an adviser to NATO Air Training Command and was helping to train the Afghan air force when he died.

"When 9/11 happened, I was pregnant and we were on our way to (South) Korea," recalled Miriam Nylander, explaining that her husband had thoughts about leaving the Air Force, but all that changed because Nylander felt his job was to stay and help defend his country.

While she spoke from a podium, a wreath of red and white flowers stood near enlarged photos of Nylander. Some of his awards and decorations were displayed before the audience, along with a Fallen Soldier Battle Cross, represented by a helmet, rifle and a pair of empty combat boots that symbolize the final march of the last battle.

"Nathan was a committed airman, and he was committed to his airmen," said Miriam Nylander, who met her husband when they both were stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida in the 1990s. She remembered her husband spending many nights at a hospital bed to be by an airman's side, or how both of them would care for an airman's children when they needed a baby sitter, or the countless mornings when she'd wake up at 4 and Nathan had already left for work.

She also spoke about Nathan's love for his children - Tyler, 12, Elisabeth, 9, and Andru, 7 - and how this year he did not get a chance to coach Elisabeth's baseball team.

She described her husband as a "geek" who enjoyed teaching her children's classmates about the weather whenever a speaker was needed at their school.

And, she mentioned Nathan's work in Afghanistan, and how he liked to share American mementos with his students. "I know God put him there for a reason. … "He was a great husband, an amazing father, a proud airman and an American hero," she said through tears.

Airmen, one by one, walked up and placed four medals - including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star - that Nylander earned posthumously alongside other military decorations he had earned.

Airman 1st Class Saphfire Cook sang "Amazing Grace" and then a wall of the hangar was opened and the mourners viewed pilots flying A-10s in a missing-man formation.

In the afternoon, Nylander's remains arrived at the base and then were taken to a funeral home for a private service. He is the 52nd service member with ties to Tucson and Southern Arizona to be claimed by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the third loss D-M has suffered in Afghanistan.

Air Force Capt. Nathan J. Nylander was killed in action on 4/27/11.

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