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Father is proud of fallen Utah soldier
It has been 15 months since Dennis Payne has seen his son. But it could have been just one.
"It could even have been a week, and I'd miss him still," Payne said Friday evening. "If your child walks out the back door you worry. It doesn't matter if he is 26 or two."
Rocky Payne was 26. A man who could act like a boy, but a man all the same.
And so it was that Dennis Payne accepted his son's decision to re-enlist in the military after a short period away from the service. Payne said his son knew of the dangers he would face.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Army specialist was killed in Iraq while serving as gunner on a Humvee, part of a convoy that was attacked with a roadside bomb in Baghdad. At least two others soldiers were injured.
Dennis Payne said his son's injuries were substantial, but he lived long enough for a chaplain to arrive by his side for his final moments.
The grieving father learned some of the details of his son's death earlier this week when two uniformed soldiers arrived at the door of his motorhome in Overton. Nev., where he and his wife spend their winters.
"The man said, 'I have something to tell you,' and I said, 'I think I already know what it is,' " Payne recalled.
More details were provided when the Paynes arrived back at their Howell home Friday afternoon. Their son's body is in Kuwait and may return to the United States by the middle of next week.
On Friday, yellow ribbons lined the road leading to the Payne's home. Flags in the city of Tremonton were flown at half-staff in honor of the fallen soldier and his family.
The ribbons and flags are painful reminders of Dennis Payne's loss -- but also of his pride. "I'm as proud of him as I can be," he said. "Not all of us are asked to give everything."
Though Rocky Payne is eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, his parents have elected to place his body in a cemetery in Howell. They want to be close to him.
It has been 15 months since they have seen their son. And that is long enough.