Army Spc. Nick Welch of Mill City, who died Aug. 6 after being critically injured in a July 23 explosion in Afghanistan, was honored in a service Aug. 18 at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland. (Thomas Patterson / Statesman Journal)
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Army Spc. Nick Welch of Mill City, who died Aug. 6 after being critically injured July 23 by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, was remembered Sunday in a service with full military honors at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.
“The Army is better for having Spc. Welch in its ranks,” said Brig. Gen. John Hort, the deputy commanding general for Welch’s 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga. “He represents the best this nation has to offer. A volunteer soldier, sacrificing everything for his teammates, the security of the United States of America, and for all people to live under that blanket we call ‘freedom.’”
Dozens of Patriot Guard Riders lined the hilly roads of the cemetery with American flags that fluttered softly in the breeze. On a bright, clear afternoon, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier hung off in the distance. Out of the stillness, flag-bearing motorcycles led the cortege. A limousine blared Jay-Z’s song “Young Forever” as the procession pulled up and family and friends embraced.
“Fear not when, fear not why, fear not much while we’re alive / Life is for living, not living up tight, see ya somewhere up in the sky / Fear not die, I’ll be alive for a million years, bye bye’s / are not for legends, I’m forever young, my name shall survive.”
An honor guard lifted Welch’s casket out of the hearse, setting it down softly in front of Welch’s parents, Barry and Lorria, and his brother, Zack. Bagpiper Ogden Kimberley played, and the formal sounds of “Taps” and of 21 guns followed.
Hort presented Lorria Welch with the folded flag from her son’s casket, as well as awards including the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal.
“I have unfortunately conducted other funerals,” Hort said, speaking to a large group of family and friends during the ceremony, “but I have never given both the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal at the same time. His platoon leadership all stated that Spc. Welch was the warrior we all imagine when we think of the American soldier: tough, caring, courageous, competent and committed.”
Chaplain Lt. Col. Scott Delbridge spoke of Welch’s positive impact on his family, his friends and on his beloved lap dog, Apolo.
“We are thankful for the sunshine today,” Delbridge said, “and we know there is always sunshine above the clouds.”
“Individuals aren’t born a certain way, they’re cultivated by family and friends,” said Lt. Michael Leach. “So thanks to you all. He was an incredible young man, and I’m fortunate to have known him.”
“We remember him fighting valiantly for his country, living his life to the fullest, and providing all those who knew him a true ripple of hope that I hope they will take with them the rest of their lives,” Hort said. “So as we personally mourn the loss of a phenomenal American and soldier, we also walk into the future with a great deal of pride in remembering Spc. Nick Welch as the warrior, devoted son and brother, and role model for so many of us.”
The general paused and turned to face the metal case that held the fallen soldier. Welch’s dog tags, glinting in the sunlight, were attached to a silver handle at the head of the casket.
“Nick Welch, from all of us here today and your unit overseas, you will truly never be forgotten.”