Memorial Day Remembrance: Cpl. Patrick Nixon – A story of service and sacrifice memorialized in iconic song “Arlington”


[WAA Board Members Dan Mead and Gold Star Mother Lorna Harris present performer Trace Adkins with a framed print prior to the concert. See video of the 2016 PBS Memorial Day Concert below.]

Recognized by many as our nation’s cemetery, the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery offer a final resting place for those who lost their lives in service to their country.  To honor our fallen, remember their sacrifice and teach that every headstone tells a story, this Memorial Day weekend Wreaths Across America retells one special story of service and sacrifice memorialized in the iconic song “Arlington.” 

Written by Dave Turnbull and Jeremy Spillman and recorded by country music star and Grammy-nominated member of the Grand Ole Opry Trace Adkins, “Arlington” was released in June 2005.  The song, performed from the soldiers’ viewpoint, was inspired by a chance meeting between Turnbull and the father of deceased U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Patrick Nixon.  

On March 23, 2003, 21-year-old Cpl. Nixon was part of a unit that was ambushed while trying to secure a bridge at Nasiriyah, Iraq. He was one of eight Marines declared missing and was confirmed dead on March 30, 2003. Cpl. Nixon was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.  Because of his heroic action in Iraq, Nixon was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. 

A Tennessee native, Patrick Nixon was a member of the Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.  Nixon joined a long line of family members who have served the nation. A great-grandfather fought in World War I, followed by a grandfather in World War II.  His father served in Vietnam, while one brother went to Bosnia and Kosovo, another brother preceded Patrick in the Marines. 

Out of an abundance of respect for our service members and their families, Adkins only performs “Arlington” for the most reverent audiences. On December 12, 2015, he joined thousands of Wreaths Across America volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery to perform “Arlington” live while over 240,000 wreaths were placed on every headstone and marker, including the final resting place of Marine Corporal Patrick Nixon. 

Inspired by the personal story behind the song, Wreaths Across America board member, Dan Mead, took a photo that December morning of Nixon’s headstone covered by a donated wreath to share with the Nixon family, Adkins and the songwriters. 

On Sunday, May 29, at a private gathering before Trace Adkins’ live performance of “Arlington” during the PBS National Memorial Day Concert, Dan Mead was joined by Gold Star Mother and Wreaths Across America board member, Lorna Harris, to present the framed photograph and to thank Mr. Adkins for his support of Wreaths Across America and for his ongoing support of our service members, veterans and their families.  Wreaths Across America plans to deliver the same framed photograph to the Nixon family and the songwriters.

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