Thursday, December 15, 2011

A LOVE STORY and a WAR STORY by SALLY PAQUETTE

A Love Story    by Sally Paquette

I met Don (Gurwell) in 1966 at a part time job at the Cinema Theaters in Toledo.  Don and I were seventeen years old.  We dated off and on for about a year.  After graduating from high school, me from Whitmer and Don from Sylvania High School, I enrolled at the University of Toledo in the College of Education.  Don joined the Marine Corps.  We dated the summer of 1967.  In the fall, Don was going to be sent to Vietnam.  Before he left, Don asked me to marry him.  Actually, he wanted to elope.  I said I didn’t think it was a good idea since I was in school and he was going off to war.  So we didn’t marry.
Sally Paquette  Don Gurwell the cowboy
While in Vietnam, Don said he often looked at a certain star in the sky and thought of me.  We wrote to each other when we could.  While he was there, he sent two ribbons from his uniform, a rifle sharpshooter ribbon and a Purple Heart Ribbon, to have as keepsakes.  During the nine months he was in Vietnam, he was wounded several times but always returned to combat.  In August, 1968, Don was severely wounded and sent back to the states.  He spent nine months at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Chicago where I visited him.  The following summer I visited Don in California, near the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton.  Even though we saw each other through 1969, we drifted apart.  At that time, I felt that he didn’t seem interested in me anymore, so we stopped seeing each other.
It wasn't until fifteen years later that I realized that he was traumatized by the war.  I learned this when I happened to travel on a school field trip with a former combat medic who saw service in Vietnam.  He said that many Vietnam War veterans returned back to the states unable to allow themselves to deal with civilian life.  They saw and did so many terrible things in Vietnam.  I was so young at the time and I didn't understand what was happening to Don.  As years went on, I married and had a daughter and taught history and French at Whitmer.  After being discharged from the Marine Corps, Don went to live in Wyoming where his mother, Irene, was originally from.  He graduated from the University of Wyoming, taught school, bought a horse ranch and married.  After we parted in 1969, I continually thought of Don every day.  At the Lutheran church I attended, I had a certain spot in Church that I would look upon and be reminded of him.  Don said he often searched the sky for the star that reminded him of me.  For about thirty five years I longed to see or hear of him, but I was afraid to initiate contact.  I still had the military ribbons that he had given me in 1968 and always felt that I shouldn’t have them.  These ribbons belong to family members.  Even though his family lived in town, I never made contact.  Years passed and I was no longer married.  In 2004 I read in the newspaper that his father had died and the funeral was going to take place I Sylvania.  I had an hour to decide to go to the funeral home to return the ribbons and to see him.  I really felt that I should return these ribbons because at the time the Iraq war had just started and so many people were so passionate about the decision to go to war.  I didn’t know how his family would feel about these keepsakes.  So, I thought, “I am a public high school teacher, I can face anything!”  I went to the funeral home to return the ribbons to Don.  I hadn’t seen him in thirty five years.  He was no longer married.  He accepted the ribbons and said he would 
David     Don Sr.     Irene     Don     Beth      Duke   Gurwell
give them to his nephew.  The next day after the funeral, he called me and asked me to have dinner with his family.  We then started to see each other when he was in town, but mostly we corresponded by mail.  At Christmas time in 2005, I decided to accept his invitation to visit him in Wyoming.  I stayed a week.  The following April 2006, we decided to get married.  The summer of 2006 we traveled to Hawaii.  We set the date to marry in July, 2007.  We were so happy.  However, that following December, his mother called and told me that there was a terrible accident.  While hunting, Don had been kicked in the head by a horse.  His mother said he had a brain trauma injury and a concussion and that he was life-flighted to a hospital in Casper.  I called his brother, Duke to tell him I was going with him to Wyoming the next day.  One hour into our 


twenty two hour journey, the hospital called and said that Don was talking and eating.  I knew he was out of life threatening danger but he was still very ill.  Duke and I stayed for ten days at his ranch helping Don recover.  Duke transported the horses to another ranch, and he and I closed down the house.  We then moved Don back to Toledo for his recuperation.  He stayed with his mother and me until Christmas.  He returned to Wyoming and recovered well enough to bring his horses back to the ranch and continue working.  We are corresponding by “snail mail” until our marriage July 28, 2007, which is almost forty years to the day that he first asked me to marry him!  We decided to retire from teaching and ranching to be with each other forever.
Grandma H   Irene  Eliza Lorraine  Nick  Lee  Beth H  Gene  Paul  Wyoming

Donald Dale Gurwell was born20 Mach 1949 in Toledo, Ohio.  He is the oldest son of my first cousin, Irene.  

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