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2nd Lt. Travis Morgado remembered for his friendly self-assurance

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Second Lt. Travis A. Morgado, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, was relentless.

As a 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division platoon leader, he made sure everyone was familiar with operations orders and had rehearsed battle drills regardless of whether or not they were going on the mission. His Soldiers didn't always like it - but they always did it.

"Travis possessed the strength of character required by leaders to force men to do the right thing," Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Dallas said at his memorial on Joint Base Lewis McChord June 14.

Morgado, 25, was killed May 23 when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device in Zharay, Afghanistan. He was the third Soldier from the 5-20 Inf. to lose his life this year.

Dallas remembers him as a natural leader who was full of potential. They had a lot in common. In fact, Dallas's own son had graduated from the University of Washington about the same time as Morgado.

The thing that struck him most on their first meeting was Morgado's confidence.

Most of the time, when a young Soldier walks out of an initial counseling with the commander, Dallas is ready with a glass of water and a bit of reassurance. Morgado didn't need them.

"Hi Sergeant Major," he said smoothly. "I'm the new guy."

Lieutenant Col. Steven Soika was just as impressed with Morgado's dedication and attention to detail, but something else stood out - his sense of service.

"He chose to give something back to the nation, a nation that had given him opportunities," he said in remarks sent from downrange.

Morgado carried his convictions with him on his first deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year. Six weeks later, he was killed.

In the end, though, his relentless attention to doing what was right was remembered. At his memorial downrange, each Soldier in his platoon knelt at the lieutenant's empty boots before ripping off their Velcro-backed nametapes and leaving them behind.

Dallas, who was at the Afghanistan Memorial, brought the tapes back to Morgado's family with a final message from the Soldiers.

"They wanted me to tell you this: They loved and respected your son as their leader and brother in arms," he said.

In Memoriam

Second Lt. Travis A. Morgado was born on March 27, 1987 in Los Gatos, Calif., but was raised in Edmonds. He graduated from the University of Washington in 2009 with a degree in civil engineering and then moved to San Jose, Calif. for a time before joining the Army in September 2010.

It wasn't exactly what his mother, Andrea Velasquez Kessler, dreamed of for her son.

"We said, ‘Travis, why do you want to join the military? You have an education. You have no college debt. You can go right into life,'" she said in a conversation with The Everett Daily Herald. "And he said, ‘Mom, why am I so lucky? I want to give back.'"

Morgado's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge and Combat Infantryman Badge.

He is survived by his father, Jose Morgado; his mother, Andrea Kessler; stepmother Nancy Morgado; stepfather Dean Kessler; brothers Eric, Carlos, and Connor, and sisters Sofia and Ana.

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