Steamboat Springs Five years is a long time in the maturation of a young adult. And so, Nathan Greenwall, the boy who mourned the loss of his 4-H pig, Hammy, at the Routt County Fair in August 2006, is a U.S. Marine today and preparing to leave his family and his fiancee to go to war in Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Greenwall, a 2009 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, is in town on leave this week, but he must report back to his base in California on Sunday in preparation for flying with his unit to Europe and then on to Afghanistan.
Greenwall is a key member of a Marine Quick Relief Force. He is trained to operate an armored wrecker that responds to damaged or destroyed U.S. military vehicles and removes them from the scene.
“I’m one of the most important jobs out there; we have a ground combat element,” Greenwall said. “The wrecker is like a king-sized tow truck with a crane on it. When vehicles are broken down or get blown up, we go get them.”
Five years ago, Greenwall was just 15, and even though he still had his learner’s permit, he already had bought a 1992 Ford-150, which he planned to paint baby blue.
The son of Ian and Amy Maxwell, he grew up on a small ranch, and in the summer of ’06, he also was preparing pigs and dairy goats to show at the Routt County Fair.
Although Hammy the pig wasn’t 100 percent healthy, Greenwall managed to win a reserve grand champion showmanship ribbon at the fair that year.
“He was just a silly pig,” he said after the fair. “When we used to let him out in the yard, he would hide from us. I always get attached to my pigs. They’re just like big dogs.”
Sadly, Hammy died in his pen soon after strutting his stuff in the show ring.
Today, Greenwall has more weighty matters on his mind. He got engaged to Lyndsey Chea, whom he dated in high school, in December. They are preparing to be apart for seven months, until Greenwall returns from his deployment in October. Greenwall said he would be relying on Chea for emotional support while he’s away.
Greenwall and his high school buddy Oren Pierce traveled to Grand Junction together to enlist in the Marines when they were seniors in high school.
“We left for boot camp together and then did Marine combat training,” Greenwall said.
Pierce is the son of Ed and Pam Pierce, of Steamboat Springs, and also is a lance corporal. The two Marines showed exemplary fitness and applied themselves to their training to rise through the ranks faster than most.
Pam Pierce said her son was trained in aircraft maintenance and left San Diego this winter aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier.
“We’re in contact with him often by Internet,” Pam Pierce said. “He’s getting great experience servicing Navy planes and enjoys what he’s doing, but you can tell he’s homesick about missing another summer in Steamboat.”
Amy Maxwell said she admires her son’s accomplishments in the Marine Corps and freely acknowledges that she tears up when she thinks of him going to war.
“I am very, very proud of my son, but he is still my baby, and it’s very tough seeing him go into this type of situation,” Maxwell said. “There have been lots of tears (though I try very hard not to let them flow in front of him) especially since his deployment date got moved up and his time at home has been cut short.”
Greenwall has a sister, Savanah, a sixth-grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School, and a brother, Laine, 2.
Greenwall insists he will be fine during his deployment to Afghanistan.
“I’ve got 44 other guys looking out for me,” he said. “I feel confident and safe. And I’m going to be taking care of my guys.”