LETTER: In memory of a fellow soldier

Carla Wiegers/Lansing

To the editor:

On Sept. 11, we commemorated 20 years since the terror attack on our nation. Some have called it the Pearl Harbor of our time, and those of us older than 30 can remember where we were and how we felt when we heard the news. This is what that day will always mean to me. May we always remember and really live a life worth saving. 

I remember that Doug Gurian was a handshaker, an unexpected professional quality for someone in their early 20s. And he made it a point to call people by their first name in conversation. Doug was a newly minted second lieutenant fresh from West Point and the Air Defense Artillery Officer Basic Course when we both reported to the 3-52 Air Defense Artillery Battalion in Wildflecken, Germany, the same week in the winter of 1987. Doug had an infectious laugh and a persuasive way about him. He really talked to people – and listened. He gave all of his attention when in conversation. We led our soldiers for three years in support of a 24-hour NATO mission. I served as the communications platoon leader and he rotated manning the guided missile air defense system. 

As lieutenants, there were seven of us there on our first military duty assignment. We witnessed the Berlin Wall disassembled during our tenure in Germany and the societal changes, and diplomatic and military policy, rules of engagement changes, that accompanied the end of the Cold War.

Doug was bright and creative and knew a lot about baseball and jazz. And he could routinely be seen reading the Wall Street Journal in the early morning hours of his 24-hour shift. Doug shared that it was always his goal to end up in business back in New York City. We could all just tell at the time that Doug possessed unlimited potential to achieve beyond the military and into his civilian aspirations.  

Fast forward to that autumn day, shortly after 6 a.m. My husband, Steve, called me and told me to turn on the television. We were stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, Pacific Time Zone. The twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City had been hit by an aircraft, then another.  

Days, weeks, months after 9/11, I heard from people with whom I’d served in the Army but had lost contact with over the years. Nothing like a collective disaster to prompt people to reach out and make that contact that we put off by living our busy lives. One friend informed me that civilian Doug Gurian, a financial services technology adviser, was attending a conference at Windows on the World the morning of the terror attack. Doug left behind his wife of 10 years, a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter. Doug achieved his aspirations, but he was taken from this earth at the age of 38 as he was going about his successful, happy civilian life.    

My life was enriched by having known Doug Gurian. This being the 20th anniversary of that attack on our homeland, it is worth examining the freedoms we enjoy and making sure we understand as much as we can about how our society works in order to preserve our way of life. May we discern what role we play to contribute to living in harmony, freely and safely, and know that there are people out there, who we may never meet, whose life’s work is to consider our safety and freedom. Think of them, and live a life worth saving.  

In tribute to the many souls, civilians and first responders lost in the terror attack, there is a passenger vessel called the “Douglas B. Gurian” that transports busy people daily to and from their work in New York City.

– Carla Wiegers/Lansing