ADELPHI, Md. -- The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the Army's corporate laboratory, held a ceremony Nov. 16 as they dedicated their Operations Center in honor of an employee's stepson who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Specialist Brenden Salazar-Nelson, stepson of ARL's Jim Nelson who works at the lab's Orlando location, enlisted in the Army at the age of 18, six months after graduating from high school.

In doing so, Salazar-Nelson followed in the footsteps of his mother, stepfather, grandfather and uncles.

Speakers at the ceremony remembered Salazar-Nelson as a "true American hero, who lived his life for his family, friends and his country."

He grew up in Florida, and was avid about playing sports, building computers, cooking and playing guitar.

Salazar-Nelson was big brother to Hannah, who is battling cystic fibrosis, and spent many hours by her side, family members said.

Upon completion of Infantry Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training, Airborne School and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, Salazar-Nelson was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy.

He then deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012, where he conducted multiple operations as a grenadier.

July 22, 2012, 10 days after his unit touched down in Afghanistan, Salazar-Nelson made the ultimate sacrifice for the country when his patrol was attacked by enemy forces.

"Dedicating our Operations Center to Brenden means that we will work together to sustain and build on his legacy, a legacy of leadership, joy for life and family, and service to the United States of America," said ARL Director Dr. Philip Perconti.

Echoing Perconti's sentiments was ARL Sgt. Maj. Keith Taylor.

"By dedicating the ARL Operations Center to Specialist Salazar-Nelson, we are honoring his memory and his commitment to our country," Taylor said. "What a great day it is to be a Soldier and a great day to be in the presence of the family of an American hero."

In addition to Salazar-Nelson's parents Jim and Jovanna Nelson, also in attendance at the ceremony were ARL Military Deputy Col. Kevin Ellison, Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Frank Gutierrez, Chief of Staff for RDECOM and Nelson family friend Col. Raymond K. Compton, and John Lockett, acting director of ARL's Human Research and Engineering Directorate.

"By dedicating the ARL Operations Center in Brenden's name, we are remembering him and honoring who he was so that no one will forget the sacrifice he made for our country," Lockett said. "Brenden was a leader, a loyal friend, and a loving son and brother who dedicated his life to serving our country. That kind of commitment should not and will not be forgotten. It inspires the work that we do at ARL to provide the Army and our Soldiers with capabilities enabled by our research. Brenden's legacy will live on, with a part of that legacy being here at ARL at the Brenden Salazar-Nelson Operations Center."

Additional photos from the ceremony are posted to an ARL Flickr album (see related links below).

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The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.