Monday, May 29, 2017

God, Country, Golf


Everyone has a hero.  Some people worship Thor, some people at awestruck by Mickey Mantle, and others idolize Neil Armstrong.  There's something about these brave souls that calls to us and urges us to be better than we are.  We know they're not perfect - no one is - but the hero represents an ideal we strive for, an image that we hope we can one day become.

For me, one of my heroes was(and still is) Larry Bauguess.

I met Larry in the Fall of 1991 as a raw ROTC cadet at Appalachian State University.  I had no idea how to be a Soldier, or even what that meant, but here was this individual who seemed to embody everything that should be.  He wasn't some Hollywood action star towering above the rest of us.  Truth is that he wasn't any bigger than I was.  Yet I knew instinctively that this was a leader who represented the best, and that if I could be half the Soldier he was, I'd turn out pretty good.

That's why it was such a shock to me a day or so after Mother's Day in 2007 when I found out that he had been killed in Afghanistan.  General Dan K. McNeill called it an "assassination."  I was numb for a few days as I contemplated the impossible, that the man I most admired in the Army was dead.

I've known his widow, Wesley Hobbs Bauguess, for as long as I knew Larry.  I met her the same semester at ASU(she was a year ahead of me, while Larry was two years ahead of me).  She was also one of the most squared away cadets I'd ever encountered.  When she and Larry got together, and later married, it was a shock to no one.  They seemed made for each other, like different parts of the same machine, fitting together like they were meant to be.  That was one of the things that made his loss so hard to bear.

Wesley is also among the strongest women I know, and, on the tenth anniversary of Larry's death, she has published a book called God, Country, Golf, Reflections of an Army Widow.  In this book, she recounts her journey through this difficult time, as well as what has helped her get through it(not surprisingly, the facets are in the title).  She talks first about the day three uniformed Soldiers came to her door at Fort Bragg to deliver the news, and I admit that I teared up as I read it.

She then talks about her history with Larry, before transitioning into life without him and what she has done since.  Wesley has not sat around wallowing in despair - she has sought out those who need help and served as an inspiration for others.  Yes, there have been plenty of moments of grief, a grief I can only imagine, but she has also persevered and gone on to give comfort to our wounded veterans, as well as work with Folds of Honor, an organization that helps provide scholarships to the children of those we've lost.

During the course of the novel, Wesley talks about her family(she has two beautiful daughters), and how her faith in God and her love of country has helped them through this difficult time.  She also reveals her love of golf and how that both helped her at school and helped her continue to give to the community.  She has met Presidents, written articles for major news organizations, and cared for those wounded on the field of battle.  She has kept Larry's spirit and zest for life alive with her compassion and drive to help others.

Be warned - this book will grab onto you emotionally.  You'll laugh at some of the exploits she recounts(like how she "died" in training when one of her cadet comrades threw a training grenade in the wrong place and it landed in the middle of her team), and you'll cry as she talks about the journey her family has gone through(such as her drive into the North Carolina mountains with her daughters to tell them exactly what happened to their father, and why his actions saved the lives of others).  Mostly, you'll feel pride at sharing the nation with this tremendous woman.  I cannot recommend her book strongly enough.

If you're interested, please go to Amazon and buy it here.

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