“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
On May 14, 2007, my world shattered.
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 and opened fire.
Larry stood between the shooter and his men, taking the brunt of the assault.
Our tiny daughters 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.
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.
In those early days of loss, grief and unspeakable pain, I had no idea how we would live without Larry. How would our girls go on without their beloved daddy? How could this possibly be God’s plan for us?
In the beginning, I could only focus for five minutes at a time. Eventually, I discovered that I already had all the tools I needed. The lessons I had learned in life had already shaped my character. They taught me patience and resilience. They would serve me well and give me the strength to carry on. My saving grace came as a remarkable triumvirate of God, Country and Golf.
Even in our darkest moments, I knew God was there. Psalm 68:5 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.” God revealed His loving support through our sweet neighbors and Army friends.
While the girls and I were away for Larry’s funeral, our neighbors cleaned our entire house, they accepted all the flower arrangements and gifts, and they completely stocked our pantry. Those amazing ladies embraced us when we returned home. I believe it’s worth mentioning that the husbands of all those ladies were deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. I represented their worst fear as Army wives, and yet, they embraced me and loved me all the same.
They knew we were struggling to find our new normal, and they loved us through every heartache and growing pain. The treatment I received from my fellow Army wives directly impacted my healing and is reflected in how well we are doing today, 10 years later. I will be forever thankful for them.
As a former Army officer, a former Army spouse and as an Army widow, I am intimately familiar with three shades of Army green. As heartbroken as I was over Larry’s loss, I slowly began to realize that my experience was valuable and worth sharing. Acts 4:20 says, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
I had been in and around the Army for my entire adult life. I wasn’t ready to let it go. I still wanted to serve my country. By the grace of God, and with the compassion of the Fort Bragg leadership, I was given the opportunity to share our story with multiple unit commands. Using myself as an example, I encouraged them and taught them how to support a grieving family during a time of loss. The support we received had been so wonderful I wanted every family that came behind us to be embraced in the same way.
My grandfather first took me to the golf course when I was 9 years old. Coaching me all the way through high school and college golf, my grandfather instilled in me more than the fundamentals of a good swing. He taught me proper etiquette, proper behavior and the power of perseverance. Romans 5:3 (NIV) says, “… but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”
Golf is a frustrating game, for sure. On the golf course, things don’t often go as planned. As a junior golfer, I struggled with physical and mental toughness. But all those years trying to master such a difficult game provided a solid foundation of patience, respect, integrity and perseverance. As an adult, and eventually as an Army widow, my history with golf came alongside me like an old friend.
When my life didn’t go as planned, golf provided comfort and opportunity. That faithful friend is an ever-existent thread in my life that opens doors and reminds me that perseverance pays off.
The influences of God, country and golf came alongside me in my grief and helped me pick up the pieces of my life. God provided comfort, peace and an abundance of friendship. My Army service gave me strength and inspiration to help others. My passion for golf reminded me to persevere and practice proper etiquette.
By leaning on God, country and golf, I have kept my eye on the prize and pressed on.
Wesley Bauguess’ book, “God, Country, Golf: Reflections of an Army Widow,” was released from Westbow Press on May 14, 2017, the 10th anniversary of her husband Larry’s courageous sacrifice in service.
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