Proud American

Memorial Day: Reflections of an Army widow

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.

 We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

—President Ronald Reagan

May is traditionally a month of delight and expectation. Summer is drawing near, the school year will end soon, pools begin to open, maybe a beach trip is planned. I look forward to all of that. But, for me and my family, an underlying twinge of pain, sadness and loss invades our hope and anticipation of an otherwise joyful month.

On May 14, 2007, my world flipped upside down. My husband, Army Major Larry Bauguess, was serving in his dream job, deployed to Afghanistan, as an operations officer in the 82nd Airborne Division. Larry was a warrior and a gentleman and, true to his roots, he was participating in a peace meeting in Pakistan.

By all accounts, the historic meeting was successful. The Afghani, Pakistani and U.S. leadership had reached an agreement. The leaders from all three sides shook hands, exchanged coins and posed for pictures. A short while later, a uniformed Pakistani Frontier Guardsman, who had the mission to provide security for our troops, instead raised his rifle, took aim and opened fire. Larry stood between the shooter and his men. On his feet, he protected his men and took the brunt of the assault.

Our tiny daughters Ryann and Ellie and I were in our home at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, when the notification team came to deliver the heartbreaking news. The sound of the doorbell startled me. I remember walking to the door on that beautiful May afternoon expecting to see a little one on our front porch wanting to play with my girls. When I looked through the peephole, I saw something entirely different.

Through the tiny glass tunnel, I saw a man dressed in army greens. As I pushed away from the door, blood rushed to my face and a cold chill raced up my spine. When you’ve been in and around the Army for as long as we have, you know what it means when a man dressed in an army-green suit with a chest full of ribbons comes to your house during a time of war.

Since that day, my daughters and I have had quite a journey of heartache and pain, but we have had joyful moments, too. We work very hard to strike a balance. We lean on our faith. We follow Larry’s example.

We miss him. Every. Single. Day. We feel his void in everything we do, even 10 years later. But, we have chosen to drive on in a manner that, we hope, has honored him. If we didn’t do that, if we had quit, if we had given up on life or felt sorry for ourselves even for a minute, Larry Bauguess would come down here and say, “I didn’t give my life so you could stop living yours.” He would tell us to drive on. He would say, “Live your life. The best way to honor me is to get back out there and continue to live.”

I know he would say that to me, and I would say the exact same thing to him. So, we drive on. We live our lives, and we live in a way that we hope brings honor to him.

So, this Memorial Day, enjoy the pool. Enjoy the beach trip. Relish in the fact that the school year is almost over and summer is right around the corner. But, please, remember those intrepid Americans who, for decades and decades, have given that last full measure of devotion. Remember those who have given their lives to provide the blanket of freedom that allows us to live free. Never forget their sacrifice. Pray for the families left behind. And always remember that, though it absolutely is worth fighting for, freedom isn’t free. 

Wesley Bauguess is an Army veteran and widow. Her book, God, Country, Golf: Reflections of an Army Widow, releases from Westbow Press on May 14, 2017, the 10th anniversary of her husband Larry’s courageous sacrifice in service.