U.S. Army Capt. Matt Nielson
 U.S. Army Capt. Matt Nielson
Monday, October 15, 2012

The casket flag from a recently deceased Korean War veteran will fly over a memorial in Cedar Falls for U.S. Army Capt. Matt Nielson of Jefferson.

Nielson was killed in June 2011, in Iraq.

His College Hill Lutheran Church family dedicated the memorial to him. The dedication ceremony was attended by between 150 and 175 persons, including Nielson’s parents Roger and Chris, and all his younger siblings, Heather, Nathanael, Jakob, Kirsten, Teddi, Emily and Luke.

Twenty-five Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from the University of Northern Iowa were there, as were Sgt. 1st Class Francis Chabotte, who instructed Nielson during his ROTC years at UNI,  and Lt. Col. (retired) Chris Lukasiewicz, who also knew Nielson. The memorial features a granite memorial and a flag pole with a bench and decorative landscaping.

Doris Mauer was chairwpman of the memorial committee. She explained that College Hill Lutheran Church is near the UNI campus and serves as a
Missouri Synod Lutheran student center. Nielson was known by many members of the church and was very highly thought of, she said.

“We have a lot of students who come here, but there is always a group of 25 or 30 that we get close to, that we stay in touch with after they graduate and hear about their weddings and their babies and such. Matt was one of those special ones,” Mauer said.

She remembers him as being very studious and that he sometimes used the quiet study room at the church. He graduated from UNI with honors, completing a bachelor of arts degree in history in 2008. She said he was always willing to help at the church.

“If there was a work crew, you could count on Matt to be there. He was a special young man. There’s no doubt about it. When he graduated we were so proud of him, and when he was killed, it popped our balloons,” Mauer said.

Roger Nielson called the dedication overwhelming and humbling. “The event was really special,” he said.

He and his family attended church that morning at College Hill Lutheran. Pastor John Wegener knew Matt and spoke in his sermon of his faith and his willingness to share it.

“He was preaching from the heart,” Roger Nielson said.

The congregation gave the Nielson family a warm welcome, and members shared stories of how Matt had endeared himself to them. He said that he and his wife had talked for a week about what comments he might make at the dedication ceremony, but when the time came, all he could do was express gratitude for the memorial and the love the congregation had for his son.

The memorial was nearly complete when Mauer’s husband Virgil, a disabled Air Force veteran of the Korean War, was taken ill. Including a flag pole as part of the memorial had been Virgil’s idea, Mauer said. He passed away in September, not long before the memorial was dedicated. At the Sunday dedication, the Mauers’ son Steven and grandson Nicholas of Overland Park, Kan., raised his casket flag.

It will continue to fly over Nielson’s memorial.

“Steven and his brother Vincent agreed that that was something their father would like. It felt good to put that flag up,” Doris Mauer said.