Todd Taylor watched Andrew Nelson grow up. Taylor lived next door to the Nelson family for 24 years, and while they're no longer neighbors, they're still close friends.
The family asked Taylor to talk on their behalf about the life of Sgt. Andrew Nelson.
"You couldn't meet a more honest young man, and just a very dedicated person," says Taylor. "When he made up his mind to do something, Andrew did it."
Taylor says Nelson was always dedicated to something -- whether it was the Catholic Church in Moorhead where he was an altar boy, the Boy Scouts where he achieved the ranking of Eagle Scout, or high school sports where he ran cross country.
“You couldn't meet a more honest young man, and just a very dedicated person.”Todd Taylor, friend of the Nelson family
But that dedication was most evident when at the age of 17, Nelson announced he was going to join the Army.
"He told his mother while in high school this is what he wanted to do," says Taylor. "And of course, she had to sign the papers allowing him to do it because at that time he was 17. He told her, 'If you don't sign, when I turn 18 I'm going to go anyway.' I think reluctantly she signed, but she knew this is what Andrew wanted to do and he was going to do it."
Three days after his high school graduation, Nelson headed to boot camp. He joined up with the 82nd Airborne Division based at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina.
Nelson's last visit to Moorhead was in July for a two-week leave. Taylor says while Nelson was home, he told him he was scheduled to leave the Army next summer.
"He had made up his mind, he wanted to get out and go to college and get a degree in engineering," Taylor says. "He was in the process of deciding what university he would attend when he got out of the military."
Nelson spoke to his mother for the last time by phone on Sunday. Taylor says she and the whole family are proud of Nelson's military service.
"The young man has been over in Iraq three times and in Afghanistan one time. So the four and a half years he's been in the military -- he spent most of it overseas. You can't help but be proud of him," says Taylor.
Nelson is survived by his mother, Suzanne, a younger sister, four half sisters and two half brothers. His father died in 1999.
Funeral arrangements for Sgt. Andrew Nelson are pending.