|From The Marin Independent Journal marinij.com
Novato solider remembered for energy, respect, pride
Posted: 09/21/2007 01:56:11 AM PDT
Novato native Nicole Olson never thought it would happen to her, though she always knew the risks faced by her husband, U.S. Army Spc. Nicholas P. Olson.
Two representatives of the U.S. Army told her this week that her Novato high school sweetheart would not be coming home from Iraq.
"I knew (of the chance), but I didn't think it was real," she said Thursday from her home in Yelm, Wash., near Fort Lewis, where her husband was stationed. "I didn't think it would ever happen."
Spc. Olson, a 2003 graduate of Marin Oaks High School, and two other soldiers died Tuesday after an improvised explosive device blew up near their unit in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, in the Diyala Province, officials said.
The soldiers may have been killed by a suicide bomber, family members said. He was 22.
The men were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Lewis.
Also killed were Spc. Joseph N. Landry III, 23, of Pensacola, Fla. and Spc. Donald E. Valentine III, 21, of Orange Park, Fla. Three other soldiers were wounded, the Army said.
Among other family members, Olson leaves behind his 20-year-old wife, who also attended Novato High, and Melody, a daughter who turned 1 in July.
"He got to come home for two weeks to do the birthday thing," Nicole Olson said. "I am very thankful for those weeks."
An adventurous, animated personality bursting with energy who was born at Marin General Hospital on April 28, 1985, Olson was "a wonderful kid" who learned to walk when he was 7 months old, family members said.
He loved motorcycles, horseback riding, skiing - whatever got him out of doors, said his mother, Anita Moran, of Cobb, in Lake County.
"He was home three weeks ago, and I gave him lots of kisses and hugs and he left home on the 28th and by the 18th he was dead," Moran said. "It's hard."
On Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement expressing his sympathy and ordered that flags at the Capitol be flown at half-staff in Olson's honor.
Flags also were lowered Thursday at Novato High School, where Olson was student before transferring to Marin Oaks. The mood was subdued, Assistant Principal Dan Curtaz said.
"For us here, for a couple of teachers, I passed out a memo just to let them know," Curtaz said. "Just sadness - teachers in the middle of their lecture, I passed out the memo and they read it and stopped and said 'is this for real?' É This is closer to home - it makes you think.
"My experience with him, he was very energetic," said Curtaz, who had Olson as a student when Curtaz taught physical education. "He just had a lot of energy É a good kid, respectful.
"I remember him wearing his (ROTC) uniform on the days they wore uniforms and wearing it proudly."
San Rafael resident Thomas Burford, founder of Operation Triple H, a Marin-based group that sends care packages to the troops, said he learned of Olson's death via an e-mail from the soldier's father, Paul Olson.
"I got an e-mail from his dad (Wednesday)," he said. "I just about fell out of my chair when I saw that. É When I got that e-mail my world stopped."
He said Paul Olson, who sent his son and a fellow soldier boots to help them get by, feared for his son and had a feeling something bad might happen. Burford described the solider, who he knew through telephone exchanges, as someone "everybody loved."
Olson, a member of the Junior ROTC program in Novato, enlisted on Oct. 20, 2004 in Oakland.
He reported to Fort Benning, Ga., for initial training as an infantryman, according to Army records. He was sent to Fort Lewis on March 7, 2005 and was assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which was later re-designated 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He had been assigned to the brigade's 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry regiment since Jan. 8, the Army said.
Olson has been decorated with the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.