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Soldier was torn between duties to family, country
She begged him not to leave. Not again. And Ronald Wood wanted nothing more than to stay by his wife's side, but he couldn't turn away from his duties as a U.S. soldier in Iraq. The decision frayed the strings of an already unraveling relationship.
Within months, the Cedar City couple's six-year marriage was over.
Even as they moved toward divorce, they struggled to patch things up. Home on a short leave in January, Wood asked to be taken back. Kim Davis declined his offer, then promptly lamented to family members that she had made the wrong decision. On Saturday, Wood called Davis from Iraq: In November, he said, he hoped to see her again. She agreed.
Hours later, a roadside bomb ripped through the steel shell of the Humvee in which Wood was riding. Two other soldiers were injured. Wood died.
On Tuesday evening, Davis lay in her mother's arms, sobbing and shaking.
"There is nothing I can do to fix this now," she cried. "There is nothing I can do."
But not even Wood's family is blaming Davis for her decision to split with the veteran Guardsman. In a world of long deployments and dangerous assignments, her story -- though with an end more tragic than most -- is not unique.
The Army reports marriages among its soldiers failed at a rate 30 percent higher in 2004 than in 2003. Since 2001, when the "operational tempo" of the nation's troops increased in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the rate of divorce among soldiers has doubled.
Long deployments and war-zone duty make for unusual, and sometimes insurmountable, family challenges for soldiers -- 10,477 of whom finalized their divorces last year.
"Any time someone is involved in combat, day-to-day life becomes much more meaningful," said Capt. Gerry White, a chaplain with the Utah National Guard who spent four months helping soldiers weather spiritual storms in Afghanistan. During his tour, White said, soldiers came to him for counseling on family troubles on a daily basis.
To battle what soldiers sometimes call "the other war," the Army provides programs designed to strengthen marriage by encouraging communication and support groups for spouses back home. But not every battle can be won, White said.
And sometimes, soldiers must make a choice between their devotion to their country and their devotion to their family.
"He was so selfless," Davis recalled of her ex-husband. "He had such a love for his family and for his job. And I think now that is where many of our problems came from.
"I know it was hard for him when I asked him to stay. I asked him again and again. But he couldn't. He said he couldn't stay and feel right."
In the end, Wood told her: "I can't leave my guys. I have to be with them."
Though disappointing, the decision was not a surprising one for Davis, who had to settle for only seeing her husband on the weekends when he accepted a full-time position with the National Guard in northern Utah two years earlier. Each Monday morning, Wood would make the 330-mile drive from the family's home in Cedar City to Logan. Each Friday he would return.
When it came time to serve in Iraq, he knew what he had to do.
"He knew his job in the military was to go and do his duty," said Davis' sister, Katie Dobson. "That's what he chose to do because he believed it was the right thing to do."
That, Dobson said, was the kind of person Wood was.
"If there was something you asked him to do he would do it," she said. "Even if it was something he didn't want to do, he'd do it."
Family members say Wood was troubled by not being able to satisfy obligations to both family and country.
And he was lonely. After Davis turned down Wood's request to reunite in January, he ran into a friend, with whom he spent several hours and then conversed with by phone every day while he was in Iraq.
Jody Wood said two women are now mourning the loss of her son. Both will be at the funeral in Cedar City, early next week, and will sit with the family, she said.
Davis is not bitter. But she does regret her decision to leave Wood. And she laments that now, no one will ever have the opportunity to know him as she did.
"He couldn't go to sleep unless he had read something, and his favorite color was blue," she said. "He ate these horrible MetRx protein bars, he'd eat them all the time, and he liked scrambled eggs for breakfast and could drink a half gallon of orange juice in a sitting.
"And he had these big Fred Flintstone feet that hurt at night when he came home and so he'd always take his boots off first thing."
"There were all those things that drive you crazy, but that you miss when they are no longer there. That you miss so very much."