LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas - It was just another trip to Wal-Mart for 2nd Lt. Joshua Nelson when he popped in to grab some fish hooks for a family trip to the lake this past spring. Little did he know that a quick shopping trip would turn into so much more.
The West Virginia Air National Guardsman was walking to the hunting and fishing section when he heard a woman say, "Stop, put it down!"
"I could tell she was stressed and she sounded frightened," Nelson said . "I looked into the aisle, and this young man had a knife to a woman's stomach."
According to police reports, the young man was mad at his mother, who he had a knife to, because she wouldn't buy him a gun. Nelson told his wife Brittany to go alert the store manager and call the police.
Nelson, who has a concealed weapons permit, stepped up beside the woman.
"I put my hand on my pistol where he'd notice, and then I stepped in between them," Nelson said. "I kept demanding he hand me the knife. I wanted him to see only one option. As I was standing beside that lady, I felt like I was responsible for her life. I was going to do whatever I had to do to protect her."
Then, according to the police report, Nelson went from trying to stop a murder to trying to stop a suicide when the assailant turned the knife on himself.
Nelson used tools he learned from training in the ANG and previously in the Marine Corps, and helped talk the young man down.
By this time, several Wal-Mart employees had joined Nelson's effort. "When he handed me the knife, he turned like he was going to just leave," Nelson said. "We told him he needed to have a seat and wait for the police to arrive."
"It was the most surreal five minutes of my life while waiting for the police," Nelson said. He added that throughout the entire event, he was never scared.
"I just relied on all of the training I've had," he said.
This event was just another storied chapter in an almost Hollywoodesque life for Nelson. He's gone from working in coal mines, to the Marine Corps, back to the mines, and today, when he's not refining his flying skills, he serves in the West Virginia legislature as a delegate.
The former Liberty University student body president points to his grandfather for his love of flying and the Founding Fathers for his passion to serve his nation and state.
"My grandfather would take me up and let me steer his single-engine airplane," Nelson said. "Today, every time I take off, I think about two things; one, my grandfather and two, I can't believe the Air Force is letting me do this."
He's trying to serve just like the Founding Fathers. "They set such a great example and I don't want to compare myself to them in the sense of their sacrifice and wisdom, but I do want to follow their example and serve however I can."
Nelson graduated Oct. 24 and will be serving like the Founding Fathers never dreamed as he flies C-130s around the globe for the West Virginia ANG's 130th Airlift Wing.