In Memory of Sgt. Dustin Decol

I recently sent an email to Pamela and others about this soldier. The cancer he had had me wondering about things. The type and how rare along with how it might be received really got to me.

Cross Posted from The Katrinacrat Blog.

Another soldier is gone, but he will not be forgotten. Sgt. Dustin Decol survived two tours in Iraq, only to be taken down by cancer.

Sgt. Dustin Decol

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.

[snip]

Decol’s earliest job aspiration, his mother said, was to be a garbage man, inspired by his favorite Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch. 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 out 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.”

[snip]

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 www.babiesrus.com 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.

Rest In Peace Dustin

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7 Responses to In Memory of Sgt. Dustin Decol

  1. Donnie

    Thanks for posting this. So sad.

  2. It shocked me when I saw the headlines. I was just talking about this a few days ago. A truly sad story.

  3. Donnie

    That’s what I thought, it was just the other day you told us about him.

  4. Pamela,

    It was just Friday that the story I mentioned was in the paper. This blows my mind.

  5. Ginny Cotts says:

    Donnie,

    Thanks. These real life and death reports make it even more difficult to understand why the DoD is so insensitive to these wonderful families. What a loss.

  6. Donnie,

    I couldn’t believe it when I saw this!

    It was only a week ago when you wrote us about him. I had know idea the cancer was so advanced that his death was so imminent.

    This is so unbelievably sad…

    As I mentioned at the time. I still think this may unfortunately just be the tip of the iceberg of what may come to light over the coming years. Of possible repeated exposure of our service personnel to depleted uranium or some other newer enhanced tools of warfare, that none of us are even yet aware of.

    Gives me shivers of agent orange all over again. I sure hope I’m wrong…

  7. Dave from Princeton

    I heard a lot of stuff about depleted uranium a couple of years ago, when we first went to Iraq. It’s nuts to be using this stuff. Agent Orange all over again is right.