‘I Died Doing Something Meaningful’ – Gold Star Mom Reflects On 10th Anniversary Of The Death Of LCpl. Travis M. Nelson In Afghanistan

August 18, 2021

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the death of local LCpl. Travis M. Nelson, who gave his life in Afghanistan on August 18, 2011.

Tuesday evening, Gold Star Mom Beckie Nelson spoke with NorthEscambia.com about the last 10 years, her son’s sacrifice in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s recent takeover.

I Died Doing Something Meaningful.

And she shared with us a short, simple note LCpl Travis Nelson left behind in his field book just in case he did not return.

“Dear friends & family, If your reading this it seems I didn’t get to come home. I love each and every one of you and I want you to know I have no regrets. I died doing something meaningful.”

He died a few short weeks after writing that note.

Beckie Nelson clings to those words that provided her peace and understanding.

“We received Travis’ belongings weeks after the funeral. The emotions we felt as we opened the trunk are unexplainable. Still in disbelief, our hearts still in pieces, it was gut wrenching to say the least. When I saw this page I closed the book, laid down on his bed with it in my arms and I actually slept for the first time in weeks.”

Not For Nothing.

“It was years before I opened it again and even now as I see it, and with the crisis in Afghanistan today, it’s like I know without a doubt his sacrifice, his loyalty to his Marine brothers and their mission, was ‘not for nothing’. It was a huge ’something’ to Travis and those beside him.”

I have such mixed emotions. We’ve known that we had to bring our troops home; that was inevitable. They had to come home,” she said. “I do feel bad about the administration now and the way it was handled, pulling them out without a plan. It’s just such a hard time right now.”

“It’s not for nothing. They did what they went there to do in training the Afghan people to hold their own. For Travis and others, it was their loyalty to country and service. I felt like his mission, their mission, accomplished so much. I definitely don’t think it was in vain.”

Growing Up With A Promise To His Mother

A young Travis Nelson grew up in Bratt, just two doors down from the modern day Travis M. Nelson Park that was named in his memory about a year after its 2010 opening.

He would play on those very grounds, shooting his BB gun and riding his go cart. His first love in his young life was fishing. At four years old, he would spend hours with relatives fishing on the Escambia River. No matter how old he got, he never gave up the love for a fishing pole and hook. He also loved playing baseball at Northwest Escambia’s Bradberry Park in Walnut Hill.

On Sept., 11, 2001, Travis Nelson was nine years old when America was attacked. He was not playing; he was fixated on the news.

And he made a promise that day. The kind of promise to a mother than a young man will do anything to uphold.

“I’ll never forget him saying ‘Momma, I will protect you. I will be soldier’,” Beckie Nelson said.

The family last saw Travis on July 13, 2011, as he deployed for Afghanistan. Their last phone conversation was Monday, August, 15, 2011, as he requested items for a care package.

That care package was still sitting by the front door three days later. It never made it to the mail.

August 18, 2011.

It was about noon on Thursday, August 18, 2011, at the Nelson home in Bratt.

An American flag fluttered in the breeze on the porch.

And three men in military uniforms stood at the door. Beckie Nelson knew what that meant.

“I just screamed and said no,” she said. “I just went to my knees and said don’t let them come in. I knew right away that he was gone.”

My Biggest Fear

The next day, Beckie Nelson sat in the middle of her bed with a laptop, reading the scores of reader comments on a NorthEscambia.com story about Travis Nelson’s death.

“He really was our hero,” she said, clutching a 5×7 photo of her son.

“I didn’t think I could see past that day. I felt like it would always be that day. I didn’t imagine that I could ever talk about it,” she said Tuesday evening. “But I can, and it has to do with the support groups, the military support groups, and the community support.”

She was remarkably strong as she talked about the heart wrenching pain of that day.

But during our interview, her voice broke.

“My biggest fear,” she said before pausing. “My biggest fear was that Travis would be forgotten. I was scared I was going to forget.”

A Fallen Marine Returns.

LCpl. Travis M. Nelson was never forgotten.

The rain poured down at Pensacola Naval Air Station August 24, 2011, as Nelson’s body arrived on the final leg of his journey home.

Outside the main gate of Pensacola NAS, people gathered to pay their respects to the young soldier. The rain did not send them running; they stood silently — many holding American flags — as the hearse carrying an American hero departed on a 55-mile journey to Atmore.

Along the way, some of Pensacola’s busiest roadways came to a complete standstill as the motorcade passed. Many motorists stood outside their vehicles and paid their respects.

In Walnut Hill, just a few miles from Nelson’s boyhood home in Bratt, the motorcade slowed as it approached Ernest Ward Middle School. Nelson was a Golden Eagle, attending Ernest Ward in the sixth and seventh grades.

Hundreds of Ernest Ward Middle School students and teachers dressed in red, white and blue lined Highway 97, American flags in hand, waiting for the arrival of the motorcade.

Several of Nelson’s middle school teachers were among the crowd that suddenly grew silent as the first sirens could be heard. As the procession passed, the students stood with their hands over their hearts, waving Old Glory. The thunder of 127 Patriot Guard motorcycle riders vibrated the ground and echoed across the country fields near the school.

Six Florida Highway Patrol trooper vehicles led the hearse past the school. Many students and teachers broke down in tears at the sight of a flag draped coffin. Others cried as they made eye contact with Nelson’s parents and their daughter  — who was a sixth grader at Ernest Ward at the time.

“I look back at those pictures now,” Beckie Nelson said Tuesday evening. “Those pictures from the middle school. It meant so much. Those kids are now fathers, mothers, some are now serving in the military.”

My Travis.

“Travis knew at nine years old that nothing was going to hold him back. That was his heart’s desire,” Beckie Nelson said 10 years later. “That’s what he wanted to do with his life.”

“God had a greater plan for my Travis.”

Above: NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


18 Responses to “‘I Died Doing Something Meaningful’ – Gold Star Mom Reflects On 10th Anniversary Of The Death Of LCpl. Travis M. Nelson In Afghanistan”

  1. Gerald David lamb on August 20th, 2021 10:36 am

    What a mark on our country that so many of my fellow soldiers, like this HERO , died in AFGANISTAN, iRAQ, iRAN AND OTHER TALIBAN COUNTRIES. WHY DID THEY DIE? What a waste of American lives to turn our back and run!

  2. Mitzi Dixon on August 19th, 2021 10:07 pm

    What a beautiful story of selflessness, love, duty, courage, service and true grit. A young man who felt the call to duty very early in his life. It’s the special few whom God places that call upon their heart and soul. Travis, you will NEVER be forgotten! We will NEVER stop saying your name and telling your story! Remember. Honor. Teach.-Wreaths Across America.

  3. Chris Angell on August 19th, 2021 8:27 am

    Beckie and Anna, you are Saints and your Son/Brother is an Angel. You are two of the most strongest women I’ve ever met. Travis was blessed to have had a life rich with your love.

  4. retired on August 19th, 2021 8:24 am


  5. William 2 on August 19th, 2021 7:25 am

    As a retired member of the U.S. military, I have the utmost respect for this young man, he believed in his service to his country and gave the ultimate sacrifice. A True American Hero!!!!

  6. bill l on August 18th, 2021 10:34 pm

    Thank you Mrs Nelson and daughter for sharing your heart the last 10 years. I have a special place in my heart for Marines. When I take my grand daughters to the park, several times we go to the memorial and I tell them what a brave Marine young man did for our country. May the Good Lord continue to bless you and give peace during this 10 year remembrance.

  7. RW on August 18th, 2021 3:42 pm


  8. SueB on August 18th, 2021 1:39 pm

    Tears swell up in my eyes and my heart hurts knowing you lost you son. Thank you for sharing your story and your son’s note.
    My son came home and now I don’t see him or even hear from him. I know his mind goes back to Iran & Afganistan tours. I am so proud of my son & I pray for him and other son’s that came home. When I think of my son, I see him in a picture when he was 3 years old, with a ball cap, shorts, & a shirt with an owl face. He had a fish he caught & stuck it in his back pocket.

  9. Danny on August 18th, 2021 12:20 pm

    It is hard to believe it has been 10 years. I remember placing his name on the helmets of our kid’s football team. One kid asked why we were wearing his name on our helmets and one of the coaches had a great response. After that all the boys jumped up and got in line for the sticker. I think of him and his parents each time I visit the park, but I know his mom and dad think of him daily. He must have been one special young man. From great parents come great people. I will continue to remember his parents in my prayers. Thank you for raising such a special person!
    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

  10. Rasheed Jackson on August 18th, 2021 12:07 pm

    John 15:13
    13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
    Praying for this young mans wonderful Mom and Dad. I have never met you but your son’s testamony is a testament of your character. Thank you for rasing such a special man. I think of him each and everytme I visit the park.

  11. Randall on August 18th, 2021 9:39 am

    RIP Marine, and Semper Fi. You gave your last full measure of devotion to your country and I thank you. You’re a REAL American Hero to me and many, many more! Thank you again, and God Bless America!

  12. Cuyon on August 18th, 2021 8:29 am

    No greater sacrifice than a MAN lay down HIS life for another. God has prepared a place for all Warriors.
    I know most people do not understand the mindset of a warrior but know this they are BORN not made to fight.
    We get to live a life of freedoms because of the sacrifices MEN like SOLDIER NELSON gave.
    Words cannot express the gratitude for all our Soldiers both male and female.

  13. Jen on August 18th, 2021 8:18 am

    Mrs. Nelson, thank you for sharing your son’s story and handwritten note. I could hardly see the article to read it as tears just poured from my eyes reading your story. I do remember this story years ago. Many thanks and my upmost respect to you son for serving our country and giving the ultimate sacrifice of his life for his love of his country. We fly a big American flag and POW/MIA flag daily to honor all those that serve. May God continue to bless you and your family. Thank you for sharing your family’s story.

  14. RW on August 18th, 2021 8:12 am

    Please accept our condolences for your loss. Your son is a Hero who sacrificed himself for all of us. No greater love than to lay down one’s life for their friends.We salute him for his honor, courage, and sacrifice.

  15. Sharon Findley on August 18th, 2021 7:35 am

    Becky and Anna,
    As always, we thank Travis for his service and ultimate sacrifice, as well as you two!
    Sending love and prayers!

  16. Paul on August 18th, 2021 7:08 am

    I rode both escorts. From NAS then from the Church to the Cemetery.
    It was very emotional.
    RIP Travis..

  17. sam on August 18th, 2021 6:43 am

    there is nothing to say. as a viet vet i know how i felt when we pulled out of vietnam. our military had pulled out of that country when it was obvious the vietnamese were not going to fight for freedom WITHOUT us doing the dirty work. the lives lost were not in vain. as long as we have people like Lcpl Nelson we will be fine.

  18. Jr on August 18th, 2021 5:58 am

    First of all, Thank you LCpl Nelson for making the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE for the SAFETY and FREEDOM for OUR COUNTRY and its people. BIG PRAYERS to the Nelson family as this time approaches for you. I remember when that hearse left NAS and I cried with you and for you. This morning my eyes watered again but knowing that this young man had so much love and compassion doing what he did makes this a little better to handle. Thank you Mrs. Nelso for sharing your story and this handwritten note from your son. You and your family are within my prayers and your son…OUR LOCAL HERO…WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

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