Cottage Grove firefighter laid to rest in farewell ceremony

MADISON, Wis. – Taking care of one of their own was the message behind a farewell ceremony for Cottage Grove firefighter Nathan Walker.

Late last month, the 31-year-old Marine Corps veteran lost his battle with PTSD when took his own life. On Monday, a procession of fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances from several departments across the state headed towards a Madison area cemetery in his honor.

The dozens in attendance listened as Walker’s last call from the Dane County Communication Center could be heard through several of the first responders’ radios.

“Nathan Walker, thank you for your service to this nation and the communities you have served, and you will never be forgotten,” the dispatcher said.

Walker leaves behind his wife Katie and his two children, a two-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter.

Since his death, his peers at the Cottage Grove Fire Department, led by Lt. Jason Kudrna Nates, have raised more than $22,000 to support his wife—a fellow firefighter and EMS responder.

“We know she’s gonna need some help down the road,” Kudrna said. “She is very proud and I know that she doesn’t want to accept that but she knows that she will need it for her family’s future.”

Walker served two tours in Afghanistan and then worked as a Sun Prairie police officer before joining the Cottage Grove Fire Department.

Friends said he never shied away from his struggles with PTSD and often used his experience to connect with and reach out to other veterans.

Kudrna added that Walker was well-liked by everyone. He said in life the husband and father was always willing to help others, so now it’s their turn to help him.

“To Nate…We’ve got it from here buddy,” Kudrna said. “We’re gonna take care of Katie. We’re gonna take care of your kids and rest easy and we’ll take it from here.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues or considering suicide, there are resources available to help. Calling 988 nationwide will connect you to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. In Dane County, Journey Mental Health Center has a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline at 608-280-2600.