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Posted on: July 11, 2018

EF&R mourns passing of former Firefighter, Sergeant Major Christopher Nelms

Chris Nelms

Shortly after graduation from high school in 1990, Chris embarked on a journey of volunteerism and service to others that would not only define his life but become his true calling. His first step along this path was his enlistment in the Army as an Infantryman on July 24, 1990. After the completion of his initial training he was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington where he served as an Infantryman and Scout Squad Leader.

Following his time at Ft. Lewis, Chris transferred from Active Duty to the Washington State National Guard. After successful completion of the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course and Special Forces Qualification Course, Chris was assigned to 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne). During this time, Chris served as a Senior Weapons Sergeant with one deployment to the Philippines in support of contingency operations and two deployments to Iraq in support of combat operations.

While serving in the Guard as a Green Beret, Chris also pursued a career of civil service, which led him to be a Firefighter with the Issaquah Fire Department in 1997, which later became Eastside Fire & Rescue. During his 10 years of service with the department, Chris applied himself 100% to everything he did. His easy going and humble demeaner earned him the respect and confidence of the firefighters and officers. You knew Chris always had your back. Chris cared, he would give his best effort to help the sick, the injured, or those who relied on him to help them on what could possibly be the worst day of their lives. He applied the same effort to help the people he worked with. His leadership and counsel helped many grow personally and professionally.

In November of 2007, Chris decided to transition from the Army National Guard to Active Duty and was assigned to the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Over the past 11 years, Chris has served selflessly at every level between team member to Sergeant Major and deployed various areas of conflict spanning the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. 

Chris’s decade of service in SOCOM was marked by exceptional performance in every endeavor. He always led from the front regardless of the task or circumstance, a fact that is reflected in his combat service record which includes multiple awards for Valor, a Soldier’s Medal, a Legion of Merit, and two Silver Stars for Gallantry. His commitment to his teammates, his unit, and this nation was unwavering and his loss will be felt across the special operations community.

In 1995, Chris married the love of his life, Stephanie. Together, Chris and Stephanie have two beautiful children Haley (16) and Nolan (15). Chris was a loving and devoted husband and father. 

In his 46 years with us, Chris lived a fuller, more meaningful, and more impactful life than most who have walked this earth. He exemplified true service to his family, his mates, and his country daily from beginning to end. He enjoyed all the simple pleasures in life with his family and had a truly uncanny ability to reach everyone in a deep and positive way. Chris lived life boldly and fearlessly, with integrity and courage rooted deep in his faith. Sergeant Major Christopher A. Nelms will be forever missed but never forgotten.  

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