I just rebuilt the VPS again and got it working. Thanks a million for helping me troubleshoot this!
I was actually keeping them in separate server blocks, but I was making two rookie mistakes:
First, I had not removed
example.com from the
server_name line in the first block, so the second server block for
example.com was completely ignored. Funny thing is, I actually thought of this, but I guess I missed the memo that said Nginx is not CSS where the last declaration wins 😀
And when I realized my folly and fixed this, I also had
return 301 https://www.$host$request_uri; in /etc/nginx/conf.d/force-ssl-example.conf --- and this was creating a redirect loop for www.example.com. I had to change the
$host variable to the actual domain (ie
return 301 https://www.example.com$request_uri; ) to stop this redirect loop.
So now all roads lead to
www.example.com, and I'm good to go.
Thank you again!