SALEM — Family and friends described Lance Cpl. Nigel K. Olsen as humble, loyal, kind, loving and someone who had always wanted to serve his country.
"He knew at 3 what he wanted to do," recalled one of Olsen's nine siblings, Stacy Hansen, at her brother's funeral Saturday.
Olsen, 21, died in Helmond Province, Afghanistan, March 4 after stepping on an improvised explosive device. If he had been one foot to the left or to the right when he was bringing a prisoner to the armored vehicle that day, he wouldn't have died, said his mother, Kim Olsen.
But she was assured it was his time to go and said she could feel her son beside her while she talked to the hundreds of people who came to the Salem LDS Stake Center to pay respects to her Marine.
"He was doing what he loved," Kim Olsen said through tears. "It was the Lord's time."
She recalled a story her neighbor had told her of the first time she met her son. The neighbor had just moved in and was sitting on the front porch when she looked over in front of her house and saw 9-year-old Nigel Olsen, with a camouflage-painted face, wearing Army fatigues, sliding a toy rifle beside him and crawling in the ditch.
His older brother, Quinn Hess, said Olsen's eyes would light up and the tone of his voice would change whenever he talked about guns, tanks or military history.
Hess said his brother's favorite movie growing up was "Top Gun," and he remembers hiding the movie from his brother after he had watched it for the 100th time.
Olsen was a mix between a stripling warrior and Captain Moroni from the Book of Mormon, said Olsen's old scoutmaster, Terry Lewis, who said Olsen was a joy to be around.
In line with his dream, Olsen joined the Marines one week after graduating from Mountain View High School in 2007. He was assigned to the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and was deployed to Afghanistan in October. This was the same battalion Lance Cpl. Carlos A. Aragon, 19, was in. Aragon was killed three days before Olsen, also by an IED.
Olsen's sister, Sarah Anthony, said she remembers the last time she saw her brother before he was deployed.
"I told him I loved him and that we would miss him and to stay safe," Anthony recalls, but she also said she had this gut-wrenching feeling that would be the last time she would see him again.
After Olsen was deployed to Afghanistan, Olsen's other sister, Stacy Hansen, said her little girl would pray daily for her uncle and "all the Marines serving with him." If anyone else was saying a prayer and forgot to mention Olsen in it, Hansen's daughter would make them say the prayer again, Hansen said.
She said all of her children, along with the other nieces and nephews, loved going to their grandma and grandpa's house for Sunday dinners and having their uncle tickle them.
"Sunday dinners will not be the same," Hansen said.
The funeral service ended with all in the audience singing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." Lining the streets the mile to the cemetery were hundreds of American flags, each with a Boy Scout young or old next to it at salute.
Before the casket was lowered to the ground, the family gathered around it and each touched the side of the coffin wherein their son, brother, uncle, nephew, grandson, friend and hero lay one last time.
"His life was not lost; it was not taken," Olsen's brother, Jeremy Hampton, said. "It was given for us. He gave his life for his country."
Those interested can donate money at any Zion's Bank to a scholarship fund established in Olsen's name that will benefit Mountain View High School students who choose the military as a career.