A Texas war hero was honored by the governor for his “courage and heroism in the face of true evil.”
Master Sergeant Travis Watkins was posthumously awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. Gov. Greg Abbott presented the award to Watkins’ great-grandson, also named Travis. Watkins grew up in Troup, and has family in Gladewater.
According to Abbott, Watkins served in World War II, earning a Bronze Star during the Guadalcanal Campaign. He stayed in the Army and also served overseas during the Korean War. On Aug. 30, 1950, Watkins and 30 of his comrades were “surrounded by enemy combatants” after getting separated from the other troops.
Abbott said Watkins set up a perimeter and went to steal their ammunition, as supplies were running low. He was shot and hurt by three enemies, but was able to kill them and steal their supplies before returning to his troops.
Watkins subsequently was later attacked again, and was hurt, but remained fighting until the enemy soldiers were killed. Watkins “collapsed from his injuries” and refused food and water so his soldiers could survive. He ordered everyone to leave, knowing that he would slow them down, as he became paralyzed from the waist down.
Watkins died at age 29 shortly after the other soldiers moved on. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman after his death.
He was a “true American hero,” Abbott said. “He put the safety of the people around him above his own life.”
“We are forever grateful for the sacrifice that he made for our country,” Abbott said. “And we want to ensure that his legacy endures so that generations of Texans can continue to find inspiration from his prolific story.”
Watkins eldest daughter, Dianne Branch, said though she was only 1-year-old when her father died, she is proud of the honors he received.
“Having been told what my father’s personality was, he would be embarrassed at all the to-do,” Branch said. “Any walk of life can produce a hero… and children should know [to] strive for what you believe in because you do live in the greatest country in the world, not to mention one of the greatest states.”
Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview, said helping the state honor Watkins was “very humbling and emotional.”
“To listen to the story behind this man and what he did to protect is troops and defend them right to the bitter end is extraordinary,” Dean said.
“We must never forget how it is that we got to where we are today,” Abbott said. “Cannot forget the brave Americans that fought for the freedoms we enjoy.”