Nick Palmer Remembered On This Day
The cold, winter scene that dawned in Leadville Today was hauntingly familiar for those who remember the day when 19-year-old Marine Lance Crpl Nick Palmer from Leadville was brought home in the frigid hours early that December morning, days after being killed in the line of duty in Fallujah, Iraq. It was 2006 and hundreds of people from a small mountain community lined the avenue in a candlelight procession as the military motorcade finally brought a son home to a grief-stricken family and heart-broken city.
And that is why the flags fly on Leadville’s Harrison Avenue today and every December 16. In honor of Nick.
Nicks Flags on the Avenue
“When I woke up the next morning, I looked out the front window,” recalled Leadville resident Brad Palmer, “and I saw nineteen American flags planted in our front yard, one for each of Nick’s nineteen years.”
It was the morning after the Palmers got the horrific, gut-wrenching news that their son, Marine Lance Crpl Nick Palmer had been killed in the line of duty in Fallujah, Iraq.
“I remember grabbing my camera to take a picture of the flags,” Palmer continued with the story. “We were in a daze from the news. I wandered down (about half a block) to the avenue and I saw all those American flags waving on behalf of Nick. It was snowing, and the sun was shining. I’ll never forget that. Never”
And that is why residents and visitors will see the flags out on Leadville’s historic Harrison Avenue today. Because its December 16, the day Lake County commemorates the sacrifice Nick Palmer made for this nation’s freedoms.
Fallen Heroes Highway
In addition, to the flags being flow annually, Nick Palmer also inspired Fallen Heroes Highway, the stretch of Highway 91 between Leadville and Copper Mountain which honors military heroes and emergency responders who gave their lives in service to others. Motorists may have noticed the two signs that commemorate the roadway’s re-naming, the first sits near the juncture of Highways 91 and 24, north of Leadville, and the second is installed off Highway 91 just south of the Copper Mountain parking lots. Along with the signs, a plaque listing the names of additional fallen heroes has been installed under each fallen hero.
Scholarships in Nick’s Honor
For those readers who may not know, Nick Palmer graduated from Lake County High School (LCHS) in 2005 where he played football. It was a former LCHS football coach who thought it would be honorable to begin a tradition to dedicate an athletic achievement award to an outstanding athlete that maintains the same dedication to their sport in which Nick exemplified within his sport. In 2007, The Nick Palmer Award was created and Nick’s #53 jersey was retired during the homecoming halftime ceremony and remains on display in the LCHS foyer.
Every year, the award is presented annually to an outstanding athlete that has demonstrated excellence in academics, shown leadership in their sport, classroom and community; sportsmanship on and off their respective field of play as well as devotion surrounding their sport.
“As time goes on, those who knew Nick have left the halls of Lake County High School,” explained Rachele Palmer, Nick’s mother, “and new classmates will have the opportunity to know of Nick and his qualities through this award. So as each year passes and new nominations are made, there will be the need to pass on to those up and coming athletes what it is that has inspired the conception of this award.”
Nick’s parents Brad and Rachele Palmer still live in Leadville. Brad is the director of Public Works for Lake County and Rachele works in the Treasurer’s office at the courthouse. Nick’s brother Dustin lives in Colorado Springs with his family: wife, Jesse, daughters Kylie and Ariana and his son and brother’s namesake Nicklas J. Palmer.
Annual Memorial Day Service
The loss of their son and brother has also inspired a renewed dedication and awareness for all who have served their country during the annual Memorial Day Services held at the Lake County Veterans Memorial. This annual commemoration is held the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend and includes a Fallen Heroes Motorcycle Recognition Run. These events have become a meaningful way for the Leadville community to come together, bringing out the crowds to the veterans memorial at Evergreen Cemetery from young to young at heart, from veterans from down the block, to active duty from across the country.
In fact, it was during last May’s ceremony that US Army Captain Alex J. Longo, a singer/songwriter who honors military heroes with his music, debuted his latest tune entitled: “The Gold Star.” As many know, a gold star on a flag represents a family member who died during Military Operations. In the final verse of “The Gold Star,” Longo honors one of Leadville’s hometown heroes: Lance Corporal Marine Nick Palmer.
In this Leadville Today, video Longo’s inspirational words and music are with images and video from the recent Memorial Day Services and Fallen Heroes Motorcycle Run. Thanks to Alex for the inspiration. Be sure to check out his latest album CD release: Balance, which includes The Gold Star.
The Gold Star
So whatever way you may choose to remember this fallen Marine and one of Leadville’s own sons, whether it’s listening to a song, taking note of a highway sign along your daily commute or taking pause as you see the American flags waving in the cold winter breeze on the avenue, do it in Honor of Nick.
© Leadville Today 2019