Serving in the military: A family affair
According to the 2011 Pew Research Center survey, almost 80 percent of active duty service members have a close relative who has served in the military. Of those, one in four has a parent who has served in the armed services.
Cpl. Kelsey Nelson is part of an even smaller group. Both of her parents served in the United States Army. Their dream for their youngest daughter was that she would go to college and have a career outside of the military. Her father, a retired sergeant major, was in disbelief when she returned home to Killeen, Texas, after graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in creative arts in therapy, and announced she was joining the United States Marine Corps. When asked why she chose to enlist, Cpl. Nelson explained, “Being a Marine had always been in the back of my mind. I wanted to be part something bigger and it has always meant a lot to me to be able to serve.”
Today, she is a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense specialist. Her days are filled with warehousing operations and training Marines to conduct immediate actions and confidently use their personal protective equipment in a CBRN environment. She spends her evenings working on her master of forensic sciences degree, studying Korean language, and enjoying time with her husband and a 14-year-old cat.
Even though she has a busy schedule, Cpl. Nelson continues to look for ways to do more to help the community. She plans on helping the Prince William County Animal Shelter with their dog-walking program. She wants to do more because, “I believe that you get out of life what you put into it.”
Her husband, also a Marine, is a member of the United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. When he is on tour, she uses her free time to volunteer in the community helping the elderly and those with special needs. When considering the many places she has volunteered, a few clearly stood out. “The staff at Heatherwood Retirement Community are incredibly friendly and the residents are great,” she said. Deborah Sweeney, life enrichment director at Heatherwood Retirement Community stated, “Cpl. Nelson shared in the daily activities of our seniors. The program has been very meaningful to our residents, particularly our veterans. It allows our folks to share their stories and meet young military service members who now uphold the legacy they helped to create.”
As Cpl. Nelson reflected on her volunteer time, she noted that her favorite activity was the House Inc. National Capitol Region Cinderella Ball. “We wore our Dress Blues and welcomed middle and high school students with disabilities. We made it such a big deal for them. It was pretty special when we were able to escort them down a red carpet and under an archway of NCO swords,” Nelson said.
When asked what her future holds, Nelson replied simply, “I’m not sure. All I know is that I want to earn my own way, like my father did.”