WESTFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey town honored a true hero in every sense of the word on Memorial Day.
Westfield named veteran and former high school principal Derrick Nelson the honorary grand marshal of its Memorial Day parade.
The annual parade draws crowds young and old. It’s patriotism on parade, but it’s a parade to mostly remember those who have served and sacrificed.
On Monday, there were memories of a special man. Nelson served in the U.S. Army reserve for 20 years. He was a dedicated soldier, and a hero in every sense of the word.
His fiancee, Sheronda Baker, spoke of his incredible gift.
“He did not die in combat, but he died trying to help another human being,” Baker said.
Dr. Nelson died from surgery complications after he decided to donate bone marrow to an anonymous sick boy in France back in February — a boy he didn’t even know.
“He just said, ‘I have to do this. I have this opportunity. I have to help him,'” said Westfield Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan.
“He’s my angel. He is my angel,” said his father, Willie Nelson.
On Monday, his parents came to remember their son, who gave so much.
“Well, that’s the way he was. He always liked to help people whenever he could. That was him,” his mother, Juanita Nelson, said.
“Our family is very humbled and honored by just the outpouring of love and support and just the recognition he’s been given. We just are just beyond words and humbled by it,” Baker said.
“If you ever met him personally, he’s the sort of an individual that would do anything. If your up, down, sick, he’s there to help,” Willie Nelson added.
To help, to serve, to sacrifice — on the day a nation paused to salute, a hometown remembered its hero.
Dr. Nelson enlisted in the Army at 19. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, where he was a chief warrant officer.