An earlier version of this story indicated Nelson was awarded the Medal of Honor in March. The story has been updated to reflect he was awarded the Citizen Service Above Self Honor by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, comprised of Medal of Honor recipients.
It's been nearly a year since 18-year-old Dylan Nelson died after saving his brother and cousin from drowning in Lake Madison. Saturday morning, Nelson's family received a distinct honor for his courage.
At the time of his death, Nelson was a member of the 115th Network Support Company in the South Dakota Army National Guard in Brookings. Today the Guard rewarded his bravery with the Soldiers Medal.
As Lieutenant Colonel Tony Verchio led this morning's services, he drew on the courage of Private Dylan Nelson's family.
"This never gets any easier," Lt. Col. Verchio said. "It's always tragic. I don't think that any parent wants to go through a situation like this. It's not normal. They showed great strength today and that helped me get through this ceremony."
In August, Nelson was swimming with his younger brother, Andrew, and cousin, Dan, along a sandbar in Lake Madison when a strong current pulled the three teenagers underwater. Nelson was able to swim out of the current and went back to help his brother and cousin. They got out, but Nelson didn't make it.
"Today was necessary because Private Nelson displayed the courage and values that all soldiers in the Army possess," Verchio said. "They come in understanding the sacrifices that they may have to make. And as Dylan's actions show, they're more than willing to make those sacrifices."
With Nelson's fellow soldiers looking on, his parents received the Soldiers Medal, awarded to anyone serving who displays heroism outside combat. And while the mood was somber, the spirit of the honor wasn't lost.
"It is bittersweet," Verchio said. "We are recognizing someone who sacrificed their life for the life of another. But it is also a celebration…a celebration of Dylan's courage and willingness to sacrifice to save others."
This isn't the first recognition the Nelson family's received for Dylan's bravery. In March, he was awarded the Citizen Service Above Self Honor by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: