Nixon-1

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

April 15, 2003, Tuesday, BC cycle

Fallen Marine from Tennessee ‘laid down his life for his friend’

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 688 words

DATELINE: GALLATIN, Tenn.

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 Cpl. 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 Pvt. Jonathan L. Gifford, 30, of Macon, Ill.; Pfc. Tamario D. Burkett, 21, of Buffalo, N.Y.; Lance Cpl. Donald J. Cline Jr., 21, of Sparks, Nev.; Pvt. Nolen R. Hutchings, 20, of Boiling Springs, S.C.; and Sgt. Brendon Reiss, 21, of Casper, Wyo. Reiss’ wife, Tensley, has been living with relatives in Cleveland, Tenn.

Marine Maj. 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 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 stepbrother, Bill Hudson, 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,” Hudson said, “never forget that it was my brother’s life that paid the price for those freedoms.”

The Associated Press State & Local Wire

April 15, 2003, Tuesday, BC cycle

First Tennessean killed in Iraq war memorialized

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 524 words

DATELINE: GALLATIN, Tenn.

Marine Cpl. Patrick Nixon, the first Tennessean killed in the war against Iraq, was remembered at his funeral Tuesday as a patriot who willingly sacrificed for his country.

David Nixon, his father, told the mourners that his son knew he could die in combat.

“He was willing to do that,” he said in five-minute remarks during the service at College Heights Baptist Church.

More than three dozen U.S. flags and a huge assortment of red and white flowers decorated the sanctuary. A large floral display in the shape of the flag was behind the pulpit. A flag-draped casket was in the front.

Nixon’s photograph in Marine dress blues was projected onto a large screen.

“We are honored by his might, his sacrifice,” the Rev. Larry Gilmore said as the service opened.

The Rev. Michael Blankenship said Nixon sat down with his nieces before he went to Iraq and told them he was going to protect their freedom.

“He laid down his life for people he did not know,” Blankenship said.

Maj. Will Randall of the U.S. Marine Corps told the mourners that Nixon’s death was not in vain.

“He will be remembered as an American patriot and a hero,” Randall said.

The service began with the singing of “God Bless America” and ended with “Amazing Grace.” A bugler blew taps near the end of the service.

The baby of a military family and youngest of four children, the 21-year-old Nixon was a mortarman with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

His body was found March 30, a week after his unit was ambushed as it tried to secure a bridge near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

Nixon’s father and stepmother, Debra, are members of the church in Gallatin, about 30 miles northeast of Nashville.

Nixon, whose remains were flown to Nashville on Friday night, will be buried Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington.

At least five other Marines were killed in the March 23 ambush: Pvt. Jonathan L. Gifford, 30, of Macon, Ill.; Pfc. Tamario D. Burkett, 21, of Buffalo, N.Y.; Lance Cpl. Donald J. Cline Jr., 21, of Sparks, Nev.; Pvt. Nolen R. Hutchings, 20, of Boiling Springs, S.C.; and Sgt. Brendon Reiss, 21, of Casper, Wyo. Reiss’ wife, Tensley, has been living with relatives in Cleveland, Tenn.

Three others from Nixon’s unit remain classified as missing.

Nixon enlisted with the Marines soon after graduation from Overton High School in Nashville in 1999, joining a family tradition of military service.

As a boy, he cared for and looked after his terminally ill mother, nursing her with his humor. Holly M. Woodruff, divorced from Patrick Nixon’s father, died in 1996.

Patrick Nixon and his mother moved to the Philadelphia area in 1990 and lived with his aunt and uncle in Holland, Pa. After her death, he returned to Gallatin in 1997 to live with his father.

President Bush comforted Patrick Nixon’s family and other relatives of fallen Marines at Camp Lejeune earlier this month.

“He cried with us,” stepsister Ginger Ford told The Dallas Morning News. “He assured us that my brother was very important and he would not be forgotten.”

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