GREENVILLE - A soldier killed in Afghanistan was set to be laid to rest right here in Eastern North Carolina.
Joshua Nelson's burial was scheduled for noon Thursday at the Coastal Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Jacksonville.
A crowd of more than 400 people spilled outside the Mt. Calvary Freewill Baptist Church Wednesday night to honor the life and service of a 22-year-old fallen soldier.
Spc. Joshua Nelson was killed Sept. 16 in an inside attack in Afghanistan. NATO commanders described the incident as a firefight involving uniformed Afghan police officers turning on American troops.
The funeral for the Greenville native drew military officials, childhood friends and members of the community, all who hoped to continue Nelson's legacy of generosity towards others.
"Joshua would take the car, pick up kids from this church and give them music lessons, so he could share his gift for music with them," said Brian Nelson, Joshua's father. "We want to shout out his story so people will know what happened and remember him."
Teachers at North Pitt High School described the young soldier as a man with uncommon courtesy and respect for others. Nelson was actively involved in the drum-line, the North Pitt High School band, the ROTC and Mt. Calvary's gospel choir.
Fellow soldier and high school classmate Nadja Warith also served in Afghanistan, and said she still shares a bond with Nelson even though he's gone.
"We're still family," Warith said. "He's sill my battle buddy, and I'm really sad. Deeply hurt. He's still right beside me."
Laughter filled the church during the open-casket public viewing, as friends and family remembered their favorite moments with Nelson.
"He was the kind of person who everyone went to if they wanted to put a smile on their faces," Warith said. "He was just a character, a great character."
Local members of the Patriot Riders organization stood silently with American flags in front of the church, guarding the entrance until the funeral began.
The funeral home handling the arrangements presented the Nelson family with a woven blanket, adorned with a picture of Joshua sewn into the fabric. Bishop Henry Brown said at the close of the ceremony the Congleton Funeral Home provided all services to the Nelson family free of charge.
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