SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Hundreds of recruits form the ArkLaTex and surrounding area vow to protect our freedoms inside a room at Shreveport MEPS.
The room is dedicated to a man who family says exemplified the phrase service before self.
While tomorrow marks 13 years since Army Sergeant Craig Nelson's death, his spirit lives on through young recruits every day.
"You wanted to be with him; you wanted to be his friend; you wanted him to be your friend. He was very loyal and he was all about having fun and people laughing and enjoying life," said Sgt. Craig Nelson's sister Carly Nelson-Thompson.
Carly says joining the military was something her brother always wanted to do.
"There was no stopping it that was in his heart and his soul and that's what he wanted to do," said Carly.
Nelson joined the Louisiana Army National Guard in 2001 convincing three of his friends to join with him.
"Not only was he good to them, but they were good to him back," Carly explains.
While serving with his unit in Iraq in 2004, an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion left Nelson clinging to life.
Medical teams were able to fly him to a Maryland hospital where he spent Christmas with his family before he died from his injuries.
"The hurt is still there, the heartbreak is still there, the pain will always be there. It's easier in the fact that he did exactly what he wanted to do. How many people die doing exactly what they wanted to do?"
The Shreveport-Bossier community has not forgotten Sgt. Nelson. In fact, the local Military Entrance Processing Station has dedicated their ceremony room in his honor.
"People still talk about him. People ask us about him and we want to talk about him because that's what keeps him alive, keeps his spirit alive," said Carly.
A photo of Sgt. Nelson is posted in the room with a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Below, it sits both his Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
"It's almost like Craig is their guardian angel and he's watching over them, and I firmly believe that," said Carly.
Across the room are more plaques honoring the courageous commitment of men and women from the ArkLaTex who were killed in service.
A promise to them they will never be forgotten.
"Don't forget these guys that are over there. Don't forget what they're doing for us, especially the ones that have given the ultimate sacrifice," said Carly. "You have to remember, these guys did this willingly. They willingly signed on the line. They willingly went to Iraq and served our country for you."