Thursday, September 21, 2006

Very Sad News: "Soldier Loses Battle"

Yesterday evening, after I got home from work and a study session at the local Border's Bookstore Cafe, I found an email from the Living Legends Team of Soldiers' Angels containing some very sad news. Sgt. Dustin Decol, whose story we've been following simultaneously with Janis & Norris Galatas', has passed away. Thankfully, he was able to pass away at home with his loved ones. Tragically, he was not able to hang on long enough to witness the birth of his only child, due sometime in November. Below is an article from The Daily Commet:
Article published Sep 20, 2006Sep 20, 2006
Soldier loses battle

Naomi King Staff Writer

HOUMA - Sgt. Dustin Decol, an Army soldier who returned home from war in Iraq only to learn he had terminal cancer, died Tuesday evening surrounded by family at his home in Houma.After his death, the Decols’ dining room in east Houma filled with the 21-year-old soldier’s loved ones, including friends, his wife, his sister, his parents and grandparents.They remembered Decol as a happy man who loved serving his country and wore his uniform with pride. They told stories about his goofy antics and appetite for life. The Decols and their extended families, the Deons and the Blanchards, will hold a memorial service Saturday that’s open to the community. The time or place haven’t been arranged yet, his mother said, but everyone’s encouraged to wear shades of blue, Decol’s favorite color. The family also wants people to come in casual clothes.“Dustin was a simple man,” said his mother Jana Decol, who family and friends refer to as “Momma D.” “He wouldn’t want anyone to go out and buy clothes.” Decol’s earliest job aspiration was to be a garbage man, inspired by his favorite Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch, his mother said. At age 5, he told everyone he wanted to be a soldier. He stuck to his dream and joined the Army in 2003, spending two combat-intense tours in Iraq.Decol, whose story was featured Friday on the front page of The Courier, returned from Iraq earlier this year and soon found he had terminal kidney cancer. Decol always put other people before himself and even passed away thinking about other people, family members said. “He just kept asking if it was OK, is it OK. We told him, yes, it was OK to go,” Momma D said.Since Decol’s death, Momma D said the family’s gotten phone calls from friends, neighbors and soldiers, both active and veteran. “The outpour of the community has been really overwhelming,” she said. “Everyone has been wonderful and wanting to help.”Although the family never asked for help during or after Decol’s battle with cancer, people helped anyway. One person’s offer is continuing to help Decol’s wife. Regina Decol, who is carrying the couple’s first baby, is due for delivery in November. Family members said Decol had wanted to see that date before he died. “My daughter is my motivation,” Regina said, quoting her husband. After hearing about the couple, a director from the baby store Babies “R” Us set up an online registry. Anyone can buy gifts by going to and clicking on the registry tab at the top. Then enter the couple’s last name and city. There’s no doubt Decol loved kids. While serving in Iraq, he became friends with a lot of children. He played video games with them in the back of old convenience stores, family said. And when Decol got presents from home, he’d give them away. They couldn’t get enough of the Tootsie Roll candies family members sent to him. In January, Decol returned from his second tour in Iraq, coming home to a newly-furnished apartment on the military base in Fort Riley, Kan. Soon after, Regina and Decol took a trip to Tombstone, Ariz., both being huge fans of the movie “Tombstone.” Around this time, Decol started getting severe back pains. After going through several tests and doctors’ visits, he was diagnosed May 18 with renal-cell carcinoma, a rare type of kidney cancer. The cancer was already into the fourth stage of development, meaning it became fatal.Two days later, Decol went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. During his 63 days at the hospital, Decol always told the doctors and nurses they were the heroes, family said. And he always saluted higher-ranking officers, even though the hospital wants soldiers to think of everyone as patients on the same level. To be near the hospital, the Decol family lived at a boarding house for injured soldiers’ families. Regina said staying there was like being in the movie “Groundhog Day.”“Everything was repeated every day,” she said. When doctors told the Decol family he didn’t have much longer, Decol wanted to come home to Houma. Though his illness kept him from the frontlines of the military, Decol requested to remain on active duty until he passed away. Throughout his career as a combat engineer, detonating and disarming bombs, he earned numerous honors and medals. But never admitting to these outstanding achievements, he said he was a soldier, and the real heroes are still fighting in Iraq.


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