WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield school board is planning to nominate Dr. Derrick Nelson, who grew up in Plainfield, for an award from the Department of Defense.

A resolution drafted by board member Brendan Galligan, which the board will vote on during its next meeting, would nominate the former Westfield High School principal for the Soldier’s Medal.

“The Soldier's Medal is awarded to any person of the army forces in the United States, who … distinguishes himself or herself by heroism not involving conflict with an enemy,” Galligan said this week. “The extraordinary act must result in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding that it clearly sets the individual apart.”

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The Soldier’s Medal, established by the U.S. Congress in July 1926, is the highest recognition awarded by the Department of Defense for soldiers serving in a civilian capacity, Galligan said.

Galligan said he has already sent copies of the resolution to the Secretary of the Army and Secretary of Defense.

“I believe that Dr. Nelson’s sacrifice to try and donate bone marrow to save a life qualifies under this [award],” Galligan said. “It’s an honor that I think he truly deserves.”

Dr. Nelson died April 8 at age 44 from complications that followed his bone marrow donation to a boy in France.

Nelson joined the Westfield Public School District in 2010 and served as the Assistant Principal of Roosevelt Intermediate School for two years. The school board named Nelson Westfield High School Principal in 2017 after he had served as acting principal for a year.

What's next?

The Westfield Board of Education next meets Tuesday, March 26, in Room 105 of the school district administration building at 302 Elm St. in Westfield.

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