Beloved Air Force sergeant and Lebanon High ROTC instructor dies

The community has lost a dedicated mentor for local youth leaders and an advocate for veterans.

Eilene M. Nielsen died Wednesday, Dec. 11 after a battle with breast cancer. After retiring from the Air Force in 2009 as a senior master sergeant, Nielsen was an aerospace science instructor for the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Lebanon High School. She was 51.

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A visitation will be held on Friday, Dec. 20, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Dayton Vineyard Church, 4051 Indian Ripple Road. Services will follow the visitation at the church at 6 p.m.

“Working daily with the kids, she was the glue that held this entire program together for the last seven or eight years and has made it to what it is with the outstanding community service,” said Robert Marlow, the senior aerospace science instructor in the AFJROTC program in Lebanon.

There are about 880 AFJROTC units worldwide; under Nielsen’s instruction, the Lebanon High unit received the “Community Service with Excellence Award” the past two years. The award means the unit has done enough community service to be considered the top 5 percent of all Junior ROTC units in the Air Force worldwide.

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“Her first battle with cancer was five years ago,” Marlow said. “She went through remission twice so the juniors and seniors that I have, they’ve been through this entire journey with her. It’s a heartbreaking story, but the inspiration that she’s leaving with the kids is just all-inspiring. It’s unbelievable what the kids think of her.”

During Nielsen’s Air Force career, she served as a medic for 23 years and flew on aeromedical evacuation missions and deployed in support of numerous operations, including Desert Storm. Nielsen received numerous awards and decorations, including the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak-leaf clusters, the Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak-leaf cluster and Combat Readiness Medal with one oak-leaf cluster.

Ray Girard, honor quarter commander for the Honor Flight Welcome Home program, said those who knew Nielsen will never forget her constant and enthusiastic support of Honor Flight.

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“She was totally dedicated to leadership of her cadets and motivating them,” Girard said. “You could tell by the way they interacted with her, how responsive they were. I guess I should call her a super patriot. It’s that kind of attitude. There was no doubt that she was going to continue the march until she dropped.”

Nielsen is survived by her husband, Scott; two sons, Blake and Logan Nielsen; a brother, Paul Zalac; her parents; grandmother, Marva Simpson; and other family.

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