This year for Veterans Day, former Army Captain Louis Nelson, who went on to pursue a successful career in industrial design, has been invited to lay a wreath to help dedicate a new permanent addition to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
Nelson served nearly five years in the military, and it helped launch a life and career that has impacted the lives of many.
Just about everything he sees includes the iconic label for “Nutrition Facts,” which he designed for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration roughly four decades ago.
“Lo and behold, it’s even on a Perrier bottle, if you look into that,” says Nelson as he raids his refrigerator. “It’s better to say facts than information,” he adds.
And when it comes to facts, this military vet, who is a native of Astoria, Queens, pulls no punches.
Growing up the lower-middle class, Nelson admits he enrolled in an ROTC program to help cover tuition and living expenses, while he attended Brooklyn's Pratt Institute to study industrial design in the 1950s.
Nelson then served nearly five years in the Army, achieving the rank of captain.
“I was one of the first commissioner officers in the United States Army to fly a helicopter,” he says.
Nelson’s military background and his expertise in industrial design would eventually overlap for a monumental project at the National Mall that will be forever linked to his legacy.
The famed mural wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, dedicated in 1995, features striking images that show the faces of men and women who served in Korea.
Nelson says well before he was selected to design the mural, his life and work ethic were forever changed by returning servicemen from the Korean War, who, thanks to the GI bill, made up about 30% of his classes at Pratt, just one year after the war ended.
“They raised the standard of excellence in our class,” he says. “They just worked all of a sudden harder than anybody else.”
And while Veterans Day last year was wrapped in uncertainty due to the pandemic, the proud veteran tells NY1 this year he has much to be happy about.
Nelson and his wife, the legendary singer-songwriter Judy Collins, recently celebrated the birth of their second great-grandchild, and they are both very proud of his new book “Mosaic,” which Nelson felt he had to write to examine how the Korean War affected him and its veterans — both then and now.