“Larry was a beautiful blend of warrior and gentleman.” — Wesley Bauguess
Wesley Bauguess first met her blue-eyed, southern soldier, Larry Bauguess, in the Army ROTC Program at Appalachian State University.
Larry’s strength in leadership, impeccable manners, dry sense of humor, and heart for Christ were just a few of the many qualities that captured Wesley’s heart. They fell in love during their ROTC days and on December 19, 1993, Wesley said, “I do,” to spending the rest of her life with this amazing man.
In the beginning of their marriage, Wesley and Larry served in the Army together as Lieutenants and then as Captains. One of Wesley’s favorite memories of her and Larry’s time together in the Army was a mid-tour leave trip they took to Australia during their one-year tour in the Republic of Korea. From snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and exploring a rainforest to tandem skydiving and even holding a koala, Wesley described it as “the best trip ever!”
About seven years after getting married, Wesley and Larry welcomed their first little girl, Ryann, into the world. Not long after, they welcomed their second, Ellie. And just like that, Wesley and Larry were parents to two beautiful little girls.
If anyone was meant to be a dad, it was Larry Bauguess. Even with the added struggle of distance, he still found ways to show his love for Ryann and Ellie.
“He deployed with coloring books and a box of crayons.” Wesley recalled. “During his limited downtime, Larry would color pictures and mail them home to the girls. His buddies would laugh at him, at first, and then ask him for a page and some crayons so they could color, too. By the end of the deployment, the girls’ bedroom walls were covered with pictures their daddy colored in Iraq. Funny! We still have most of them.”
With his kind, gentle, and funny spirit, it’s no wonder he was a hero to Ryann and Ellie.
In the early part of 2007, Major Larry Bauguess, serving with the 82nd Airborne Division, deployed with his unit to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
On May 14th, Larry and his Commander attended a peace meeting in a tribal region of Pakistan regarding the negotiation of peace along the unruly border.
An agreement was reached. Peace was negotiated. The meeting was successful.
The time came to move back to the helicopter-landing zone, and instead of riding in the senior leader vehicles, Larry opted to stay behind with his men and boarded a pickup truck for the ride back.
He waited for his men to settle in before he began climbing into the back of the truck himself.
It happened without a warning.
At close range, a uniformed Pakistani Frontier Guardsman opened fire, and Major Larry Bauguess stood.
He stood, on his feet, shielding his men, taking the brunt of the assault.
He stood, strong and selfless, giving his life to save the lives of his men.
Major Larry Bauguess stood and fell, a hero.
However, heroism does not come without a price, and the Bauguess family felt the weight of this price the day they learned their blue-eyed southern soldier would not be coming home.
The doorbell stopped Wesley in her tracks that day.
Looking through the door’s peephole, she saw a man dressed in Army greens. Her head started spinning as she tried to convince herself that he wasn’t there for the reason she knew he was.
“I just talked to him yesterday. I just got that picture of him riding on a camel this morning,” Wesley told herself as she worked up the will to open the door. “Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It can’t be Larry. This isn’t happening.”
But it was, and it did. The love of her life, Ryann and Ellie’s hero, wasn’t coming home.
Ryann was 6 and Ellie was 4 when their dad was killed.
“It took them a very long time to process his loss,” Wesley said about Ryann and Ellie. “Honestly, I think we’re still processing how long forever is. You don’t ever get over losing your daddy. His absence is always noticeable…it’s always felt.”
It started with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. Now it’s Ryann’s tennis, Ellie’s golf, learning to drive, getting ready for school dances. Next it will be graduating from high school, going off to college. Later it will be college graduation, weddings and grandchildren. All things a dad is supposed to be present for, but Larry won’t be.
Since Larry’s death, Wesley, Ryann, and Ellie have been driving on as Larry would expect them to.
“I lean on Jesus,” Wesley said. “I hug my kids and keep them close. I rest assured that we will see Larry again in Heaven.”
Wesley finds joy in playing golf, being outdoors (especially the mountains), and above all else she finds joy in her love for Jesus.
Ryann and Ellie are the light of her world. Wesley describes them as “bright and beautiful young women of God. They love Jesus. They are driven to be the best they can be in all things.”
Although the loss of Larry has been heartbreaking, they drive on, living life the best they can.
As Wesley always says, “If we sat here, crumpled and defeated, Larry Bauguess would come down here and kick us square in the backside. He would say, “Get up…Drive on. Live your life. The best way to honor me is to get back out there and continue to live.””
And they do.