Remembering an Iowa Soldier

Don Nichols… Remembered

As a former Waverly-Shell Rock high school teacher, I had the opportunity to teach a now former United States soldier. Don Nichols was killed in action in Afghanistan last Wednesday, April 13, 2011. I do not know much about Don’s life as a soldier, but I know a bit about him as a student.

The Science Issues class had its debut in the Fall of 2008. Don Nichols was a student in this co-taught science class. The class offered students an opportunity to research and present science related topics of high significance to the current times.  Don had particular interest in politics and how it related to science. As it was an election year, Don and a student partner spend elaborate time designing a presentation for the class that included influential political undertones.

On presentation day, Don demonstrated his prominent speaking ability humorously, genuinely and with heart. A twinkle in his eye let us know that he was enjoying the play on words which were cleverly constructed to support his political party, while making a strong statement about the scientific issue he was really supposed to be speaking about.

Don made me smile almost everyday. He was truly a soldier, one who will stand up for what he believes. One who will put himself in harms way to prevent another from harm. One who represents what it means to be a proud American.

Don was scheduled for basic training in the summer following his junior year. I recall asking him, why he was going at such a young age? He said something to the tune of being 18 years old and being ready to move ahead with his life.  He completed the training and returned to school that next year as a confident mature man. I could see the change in his attitude; even the gleam in his eye told me he had experienced a new deeper part of himself.  Having been through basic training, and attaining a special status as an excellent Marx man Don was especially effective as a speaker regarding his experience.  It was pretty interesting to hear him share the strategies he had learned about warfare.  I invited him to speak to a group of younger students about his training.

I recall he showed a video reflecting some the artillery he was familiar with, and showed the American tanks that were used to investigate the countryside for snipers and ambush. He stated that since the countries we were currently fighting did not have much in the way of man or gun power, that they, the enemy mostly set up road bombs which would kill or injury one or two of our soldiers but would never destroy an army.

The irony in that statement, returned to haunt me as I read that it was just such an ambush expedition, which led to his untimely death. The newspaper named the weapon of death an improvised explosive device; basically a homemade bomb. No it did not kill an army, but it did kill a most genuine, fun loving, clever American man from our beloved State of Iowa.  Don Nichols was son, brother, fiancé, a friend, a soldier and always a Go-Hawk. May his smile grace heaven with love and may he watch over other soldiers and help guide them safely home.

Thank you Don for living passionately, for gracing our halls at Waverly-Shell Rock high school and for living your dream so passionately. We love you and will never forget you.

Blessings to you, your friends & family at this time and always.

Maria Peth is: wife, mother, writer, teacher, and a certified Angel Therapist. Contact her at: angelove444@msn.com

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