Joe Nelms was born on 27 June 1947 in Huntsville, Alabama. After graduating from Huntsville High School in 1966, he was drafted into the US Army on 26 June 1968. After basic training and then advanced training as an infantryman, Private Nelms was assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion (Airmobile), 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Vietnam. On 15 January 1969, while serving as a rifleman, PFC Nelms' company was conducting a ground reconnaissance mission near Tay Ninh Province. With three other members of his squad, PFC Nelms volunteered to form an ambush patrol. As darkness fell, they were ready in position and waiting enemy contact. At approximately 0115 hours, PFC Nelms heard the enemy approaching. Alerting the others, he waited until the enemy soldiers were within 15 meters of his locaton, then he sprung the ambush. By his clear mind and personal courage, three enemy soldiers were killed and several others seriously wounded. For his personal bravery on this date, PFC Joseph Nelms was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for Heroism.
Sergeant Nelms left the Army in June of 1970 and currently lives in Henderson, Nevada.