Husband’s death in Afghanistan prompted widow to make life change

Sometimes tragedy provides motivation for a life change.


Quamisha Nelson can attest to this. After her husband, Spc. Joshua N. Nelson, was killed in combat on Sept. 16, 2012 in Murani, Afghanistan, Nelson took to heart advice she received from a chaplain.

“One of the chaplains that came to my house to give me the news, I asked him ‘What am I suppose to do?’ cause I didn’t know,” Nelson said. “And he was just like ‘just get through today and get through the next day, whatever it is you feel like you need to do to get through that day then that’s what you do.’ ”

It was this advice, along with the support of her family and friends, that pushed Nelson to open a Smoothie King franchise in her hometown of Jacksonville, N.C., in her husband’s honor.

Her husband, an Army intelligence analyst, was one of four soldiers shot and killed while they slept by a group of Afghan soldiers being trained by the team. He was 22.

“I was sad and at times I felt guilty,” Nelson, 28, said as she reflected on his death Tuesday. “He had told me multiple times, the one reason that he didn’t want to go into the military is the one thing that happened.”

Despite that trepidation, he had great fondness for the military, Nelson said. As his interest in joining the armed services grew, so did the support from his family, she said.

“He didn’t necessarily have the best group of friends or was into the right activities so a lot of people were proud of his decision to move forward with that,” Nelson said. “He was definitely doing something that put him on the right track.”

Before joining the Army in March of 2011, Nelson studied at East Carolina University and worked as a team member at Convergy’s, a global customer management company in North Carolina. This was where the couple first met and they married in January of that year. He attended basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., and completed advance training at Goodfellow Air Force base in San Angelo, Texas and was given his first assignment at Fort Gordon.

“Everything was going well,” Nelson said. “He actually enjoyed what he was doing and surprisingly, loved being in the Army.”

But as her husband prepared for the nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Nelson began feeling the unease shared by many spouses when their loved ones are sent off to war.

“I think he might have been with a unit that didn’t deploy often but a lot of the people that worked with him wanted to get deployed and they kind of started to tell him how fun it was going to be and how it was going to be so high-speed and they were going to do all this stuff and that kind of got him motivated,” Nelson said. “But I remember the last night we were together we were both crying. I really didn’t want him to go and I think it dawned on him that it really wasn’t what he wanted to be doing. But at that point of course it was already too late.”

Nelson first learned of her husband’s death on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, after becoming “overwhelmingly sad” from a Facebook post about the loss of a friend’s spouse. As Nelson retired to an upstairs bedroom, her dog began to bark.

“I looked out the door and I saw a van with government plates on it and immediately before I could even see the people dressed up in their uniforms I knew something was wrong,” Nelson said.

She said delivery of the news about his death was a blur, but was certain of one thing that has sparked recent controversy — she didn’t get a call from the president, Barack Obama.

“They just sat me down on the couch and they started telling me what happened,” Nelson said. “I don’t remember everything that they said cause at the moment I saw the van I just became hysterical and was just distorted and confused.”

More than five years later, Nelson said her husband’s death inspired her to do something she probably wouldn’t have done. His loss, she said, was painful but not meaningless.

“He could of died in another way. He could have died out on the streets doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing, but he died and he died with honor and now he’s a hero forever,” Nelson said. “So I left my house (at Fort Gordon) when I went to the funeral and never went back because I know that instead of me sitting there and being depressed he would have wanted me to come up with something.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Threatened to be lost in the recent controversy involving President Trump and Gold Star families is the sacrifice fallen service members made to the country. Augusta Chronicle reporters Nefeteria Brewster and Amanda King talked to family members of five such heroes who have local ties to let them tell the stories of their loved ones.

-- Theresa Thigpen lost her husband Master Sgt.Thomas Thigpen in 2003 in Kuwait during the buildup to Operation Iraqi Freedom. | PROFILE

-- Cindy Guthrie’s brother, Kenneth Nichols Jr., was killed in 2009 in Afghanistan. | PROFILE

-- Kim Elle’s father, Air Force Capt. Ted Sweeting, who served two tours in Vietnam, was killed in a 1971 plane crash while stationed in Holland. | PROFILE

-- Quamisha Nelson’s husband, Spc. Joshua N. Nelson, was among four soldiers killed in 2012 by Afghan soldiers being trained by the U.S. | PROFILE

-- Neal and Lucy Dillon lost their son, Cpl. Matthew Dillon, in 2006 in Iraq. | PROFILE

When Theresa Thigpen asked her husband why he extended his military service so he could go with his battalion to Kuwait, he said they needed him. It was a response worthy of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“That’s what they sign up for,” she said about the mentality of service members. “That’s the ultimate act for a soldier.”



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