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Widow of Haitian-American War Veteran Transforms Trauma Into Power and Purpose

By Cindy Similien

In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, Mecca Nelson’s husband, Army Sergeant Mario Nelson, volunteered to join the recovery efforts at Ground Zero in New York City. After the attack, he decided to go to active duty. 

One day, he sat Mecca down, and said, “I’ve been thinking about going active-duty. I need to fight for my country. I need to help my country.” Even though he was from Haiti, and loved his Haitian culture, he also saw the United States of America as his country because of the opportunities he received. He had practiced his due diligence, asking questions, doing the research, and praying about his decision. 

Being the wife of a soldier,  Nelson knew that she had to support him in what he was called to do. Known as the “Humble Haitian Warrior,” Sgt. Nelson was born in the capital city of Haiti – Port-au-Prince. He was a hard-working, patient, loving, powerful, strong, family-oriented, and “less talk/more action” kind of man. They were the doting parents of their only daughter, Mia.

In January 2006, he was deployed to Iraq. (He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany.)  On October 1, 2006, my life as I’d always known it came to a screeching halt.  He died from injuries sustained when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated near his vehicle in Hit, Iraq. 

He would have turned 40 years old on May 25, 2020. To commemorate his legacy and memory, Mecca, a Gold Star Spouse, published a book entitled, “Humble Haitian Warrior: 5 Lessons of Life Learned From My Husband.”

“Life does not always go on how you plan it,” she said. “There was no amount of preparation or warning possible to help me cope with becoming a widow at a very young age. I remember how difficult it felt just after he died. Every morning, I would sit on my bed for hours, gazing out into nothing, consumed by all the hurt and pain. I wasn’t sure how I could raise my daughter without him—but I knew I had to. That is what he would have wanted.”

She continued, “I’ve been fortunate enough to take the grief over the loss of my husband and turn it into something positive and empowering to help others—and especially those dealing with complex trauma and grief. When I see how far I’ve come, again, I can’t help but thank God. God had given me the strength to continue moving forward, even on the days when I didn’t think I could move on. Mario’s loss revealed to me the strength and gift of my vulnerability. With the guidance of God and support from my church, I evolved into someone with a life purpose.  The relationship with my daughter has a strong bond. I remember my husband and his sacrifice, knowing that now, and every day, I am helping others heal inside and out.

“I never forgot the lessons my husband taught me. They stayed with me all throughout my healing process. My hope is that this book will inspire, encourage, and empower readers who have lost loved ones, or experienced some form of trauma. No matter how dark it can get, there’s always a glimmer of hope and grace.

“I’d like to let other Gold Star wives, widows, and families know they are not alone. If you’re reading this, please stay active, even when it’s difficult. Try to remain positive. I promise you, when there is a will, there is a way. We will never forget our loved ones. Their names, their work, and their love are stitched forever on our hearts; we carry them everywhere we go.”

She will hold an event called “Celebrate Humble Haitian Warrior Book Salute” at 4pm-6pm on Monday, May 25, 2020. To RSVP, BookSalute.Eventbrite.com

To purchase the book, visit: HumbleHaitianWarrior.Com

Haitian Times

Haitian Times

The Haitian Times was founded in 1999 as a weekly English language newspaper based in Brooklyn, NY.The newspaper is widely regarded as the most authoritative voice for Haitian Diaspora.
Haitian Times
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May. 25, 2020

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