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Master Gunnery Sgt. Billy K. Nelson

Master Gunnery Sgt. Billy K. Nelson

Sgt. Grit,
Thanks for a great newsletter that often brings a tear to this former Marine. It’s been almost a year since we buried my father in-law, Master Gunnery Sgt. Billy K. Nelson 1943-1973. He joined the Marine Corps when he was only 17 and was a combat veteran in WWII, The Korean War and Vietnam.

While the family gathered at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego I watched as a van full of Marines came and checked in at the main entrance. I walked up asked them if they were there for the burial service of my father in-law and they said yes. I proceeded to give them a brief history of him and how he was in 3 wars and spent 30 years in the Corps. I told them it was an honor to have them perform the burial ceremony. A few minutes later a Sgt. Major exited his car and checked in at the entrance, I shouted “Good Morning Sgt. Maj. and he responded back to myself and the family. Little did I know he was to be part of the burial ceremony also.

There is a ceremonial location that they perform the burial with military honors and as we drove to that point through all the white headstones it was all I could do to not break down. The Sgt. Maj. and two other Marines, one holding the urn with my father in-laws ashes slowly saluted as we drove up. In the background among the headstones were the seven Marines who were to do the 21 gun salute. What a moving and touching tribute they gave to a fallen hero. Three rounds from each volley were brought back to my mother in-law and the young Sgt. kneeled down and asked her if he could insert them into the flag. I have never heard of this until recently when I was reading one of your newsletters.

As we left the cemetery I told my son to remember this place with reverence, this is where hero’s are buried. Thank you for letting me share the story of an American Hero, my father in-law. Attached is a picture taken in the early 70’s. It should be a recruiting poster!

Semper Fi,
Sgt. Kevin T. Shannon 75-79
TOW Co., C 1/5

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