Young soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan
Crusader Staff Report
It was a funeral service befitting a hero.
Trinity United Church of Christ in the Washington Heights community on Tuesday, August 13 was the scene of a grand farewell for Michael Isaiah Nance, a paratrooper who along with his comrade was killed July 29 while serving in Afghanistan.
It was an emotional service as tears flowed and tributes were given during a nearly four-hour ceremony. Prior to the funeral, many filed past Nance’s open casket where he was dressed in his full military uniform.
Then, Illinois Governor Jay Pritzker, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined numerous Chicago police officers, men in uniform and community residents to celebrate the life of Nance, who was just 24 years old when he, along with Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer of Stryker, Ohio, was killed by an Afghan soldier.
Nance was deployed on July 12 as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. A paratrooper who was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, Nance was in Afghanistan for just three weeks before he was killed. He was assigned to the 1-505th parachute infantry regiment as a rifleman.
Nance grew up on Chicago’s South Side. He attended high school in Northbrook, an affluent town nestled in Chicago’s northern suburbs. He was known for making jokes and making people laugh. He also loved food and traveling.
He joined Trinity United Church of Christ at a young age.
Nance graduated from the Airborne school in July 2017 and joined the elite 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg. For his service, he was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Military honors notwithstanding, Nance’s death was still very difficult for many mourners who lost him at a young age. His elaborate funeral capped two weeks of mourning among family and friends, but they were at times encouraged during the services as tributes flowed at Trinity.
In her five-minute speech Lightfoot praised Nance for making the ultimate sacrifice while pursuing his dream with dedication.
“Today we lay to rest a great Chicagoan, a soldier and a warrior, a devoted brother and beloved son,” Lightfoot said.
Following the service, officers in police cars and dozens of veterans on motorcycles led a lengthy procession at least 100 cars long. Nance was buried with full military honors at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.
It was the final leg of a journey that began on August 9, when Nance’s body arrived at Midway Airport. Funeral director Spencer Leak Jr. of Leak and Sons Funeral Home accompanied the family when Nance’s body arrived at the airport.
His mother, Shawn Gregoire, was in tears as she embraced her son’s casket, draped with the American flag.
Outside Midway Airport, children held American flags, honoring Nance, as they lined the sidewalk alongside firefighters and other veterans. A procession made its way from Midway, to the Dan Ryan and ended at Leak and Sons Funeral Home where the owners covered the expenses.
The day before Nance’s funeral at Trinity, mourners packed the Leak & Sons Funeral Home in Country Club Hills during a visitation for Nance.