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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.