Lt. Travis Morgado left Joint Base Lewis-McChord in April with confidence and a plan to lead a veteran Stryker unit already four months into its deployment in southern Afghanistan.
He would get only six weeks to carry out his vision for how he wanted to lead a platoon as a young officer in combat before an enemy mine claimed his life.
In that time, he left a lasting impression on his soldiers, one they revealed by continuing to fight after his death and by giving pieces of their uniforms to his family.
Morgado, 25, died May 23 in Kandahar Province. He was the second lieutenant and the third soldier to suffer fatal wounds in Afghanistan this year among Lewis-McChords 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.
His family and fellow soldiers gathered Wednesday in Lewis-McChords chapel to remember him as a University of Washington graduate who could have done anything in life.
Travis was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, 5th Battalion commander Lt. Col. Steven Soika wrote in remarks read at the memorial. He chose to give something back to the nation, a nation that had given him opportunities.
Morgado was born in San Jose, Calif. He grew up with his mother, Andrea Kessler, in Edmonds while spending his summers in the Bay Area with his father, Jose Morgado. He is survived by his parents, stepparents and five siblings.
He earned a civil engineering degree and then joined the Army in September 2010. Morgado moved to Lewis-McChord in March after finishing his Army officer training, and left for Afghanistan the following month.
After his death, Morgados platoon fought four days without him before it returned to its forward base, refusing to let the attack compel them to retreat. Finally, they returned and received silent respect from their peers.
They came in exhausted, with dried mud caked up to their chests, remembered 5th Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Dallas. Soldiers stood as they walked in to pay respect to Travis and the bravery his platoon had shown to honor him.
They put their hearts on their sleeves a few days later at a memorial to Morgado in Kandahar.
Dallas watched the troops approach the soldiers cross of a rifle, boots and dog tags. He was struck by the offerings they made to the fallen lieutenant.
Each of them took a knee at the memorial, said a prayer and then one by one ripped off their name tapes and left them at Travis boots, Dallas said. They did this to show their devotion to him.
Dallas brought those name tapes to Morgados family with a message. They wanted me to tell you this: They loved and respected your son as their leader and brother in arms.
Each memorial at Lewis-McChord follows a script that includes testimony, prayer and a 21-gun salute. Yet each is different in unexpected ways, reflecting the personalities of the fallen soldiers.
Morgados ended with Dallas and the 5th Battalions Maj. Joseph Richey taking a knee before the lieutenants boots. Morgados family followed, each parent and sibling kneeling before the soldiers cross.