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A Soldier Dies


A Soldier DiesMy cousin, Wayne, died earlier this week. He died an unpleasant death of colon cancer in a VA hospital far from home. As he wished, he was cremated and there was no funeral or memorial service. Wayne was one of the oldest of my 55 first cousins. He and his family lived about 30 miles from my hometown. His father, like mine, worked in the oil field. His mother, like mine, was a stay at home mother. Like me, he had a brother and sister. After he graduated from high school, our similar lives took very different paths. Wayne joined the service and served in Vietnam. Like many soldiers, he didn't talk much about his time at war or maybe I just didn't ask. Our fathers and uncles had served in WW II and we asked about those wars and they told us of their experiences. The Vietnam War was the first war since the Civil War in which our country was so divided. Upon Wayne's return from Vietnam, he was a changed person. Maybe this would have occurred whether he served in Vietnam or not. Who knows? At any rate, he never married nor had children to my knowledge. He rode a motorcycle, wore black leather and had long hair and tattoos. He struggled with many demons (legal problems, alcohol, drugs and perhaps memories of war we knew little about). Wayne had a good and generous heart. He and his motorcycle buddies collected toys for tots. He occasionally made an appearance at our family reunions and we were always happy to see him. His parents and older sister died before him. His older brother, Dennis, and his offspring as well as the older sister's children and grandchildren are left to represent that part of the family tree now. Wayne's faithful companion, Rose, was there at his side as he lived out his last painful days. I have regrets that my cousin had to go fight that war and to return with so much baggage and so little support. I regret I didn't ask him more about those experiences or tell him I appreciated that he had served our country. I regret that many other soldiers who have served in Vietnam and the wars since may face similar circumstances, battling demons we are afraid to ask about. Sleep in peace, Wayne, sleep in peace.


Ronda Miller 10 years, 4 months ago

Alia - I suspect he knew he was loved by you and returned that love.

What a loving tribute, My brother-in-law served in Vietnam also and doesn't spend much time talking about it. He still has shrapnel wound scars, had malaria and has nerve damage from agent orange.

War does horrible things to human beings, sometimes the damage is only on the inside, but it is always there. I normally like to think of the ripple effect as positive, but the ripple effect of war extends across all boundries, affecting all of us.

Thank you to all of the Waynes and the Carls of our world who sacrificed so much.

Alia, I am sorry for your loss.

kansascrone 10 years, 4 months ago

alia - i too am sorry for your loss.

i met a vietnam vet who has only recently gotten help for his ptsd and is now helping returning iraqi vets get the help they need.

i'm not saying that wayne suffered from ptsd but like rhonda said, "war does horrible things to human beings." at least we as a society are getting to the point where it is not a disgrace for returning soldiers to ask for help.

wayne was fortunate to have a caring and compassionate cousin.

Ralph Reed 10 years, 4 months ago

Alia I too am saddened by your loss. Be at peace in the knowledge that he doesn't hurt anymore. He's moved on to a better place. Your writing this is a tremendous and heartfelt memorial to your cousin Wayne, it brought tears to my eyes, - Ralph

Larry Powers 10 years, 4 months ago

Alia This is such an endearing and heartfelt story of your cousin. So few take to time to look past the physcial and into the heart and soul of a man as you have done here. I served in the military during the Vietnam conflict (war) though I did not serve in the horrid battle zone. - I think still among Vietnam vets there is a pain that it was not even allowed to be called a war, but a conflict. They seen enough bodies ripped apart to know it was war. Many men struggle after coming back from any war. They are not bloody-killers as some would have you believe. They are men who struggle for a life-time and live with the dreams and memories of the things they saw. This is a wonderful tribute to one of these men. Thanks for honoring him. Larry Powers

David Lignell 10 years, 4 months ago


You've captured Wayne's character and spirit. While he sounds tortured at times, it's also apparent he had a selfless attitude towards others. I agree with the others -- a beautiful tribute. Well done.

temperance 10 years, 4 months ago

Alia, I'm so sorry for your loss. This was a wonderful, moving, tribute. Thank you for sharing it.

Kathy Theis-Getto 10 years, 4 months ago

Alia: This is a lovely tribute. War is so ugly. Some more than others.

Pattie Johnston 10 years, 4 months ago

For those of us who have friends or family or both that came back from military duty in Vietnam, recognize the hard to describe feeling of "difference" that you mention. For some, the difference was pronounced and could not help but be noticed but for many, the difference was subtle and becomes noticed only at surprising times. Wayne may have often felt alone but you have done a wonderful thing in letting us all share him for a moment. Somewhere, he knows.

Marlo Angell 10 years, 4 months ago

Beautiful tribute. You found a thoughtful way to show your remembrance of him and still remain true to his wishes of not having a funeral or memorial service.

white_mountain 10 years, 4 months ago

This is a very moving tribute, you've done your cousin proud. I am sorry for your loss.

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