Saturday, December 5, 2009
His Star Has Turned From Blue to Gold
A Fort Carson infantryman was killed in an ambush Tuesday on his first mission as a sergeant, family members said.
Sgt. Kenneth Ray Nichols Jr. — “Bub” to his friends — had been pinned with his new rank just hours before setting out with his unit on a night patrol in Kunar province. A rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle, killing the 28-year-old , and wounding another soldier, his widow said.
“He always smiled. He loved life, he was happy, and he made everyone around him want to be a better person,” Lexi Nichols said.
She said the other victim of the attack is expected to recover.
The four-year Army veteran grew up in Chrisman, Ill., and served an earlier tour in Iraq, from October 2006 to December 2007. He leaves behind four children, including a 9-month-old daughter, Pailynn.
He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
Friends recalled Nichols as outgoing and prone to mischief. He loved playing pranks, riding his Harley Davidson and hanging out in a shed he built behind his Colorado Springs home, where he and friends would gather on weekends to drink beer and build furniture that cluttered his family’s home.
Tinisha Shade-Cravens, a high school friend who later became a sister-in-law, said Nichols rarely spent time on the couch, at least not for long. You’d find him fishing, getting friends together for spirited card games or doing whatever he could to stay busy.
“He was an outdoorsy guy, from the time we were kids all the way until he joined the Army,” she said. “He always was Army-bound, I guess you could say.”
While deployed, Nichols chatted on the computer with his wife for 5 or 10 minutes a day, about the kids or the goings-on in Afghanistan and making plans for his two-week break from the battlefield, set for Dec. 16. He was excited to see his children on Christmas, she said. His gift would have been a two-night, three-day trip to Las Vegas booked early for him to enjoy at the end of his second deployment.
“He always wanted to go to Vegas,” she said.
Although services are still being arranged, the family plans to hold Nichols’ funeral next week at Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School in Illinois, where he graduated in 2000. He is to be buried in the Danville (Ill.) National Cemetery, his family said.