Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dennis Veater remembered

Once a Marine, always a Marine, or so the saying goes.

To those who loved him, Dennis J. Veater was every inch a Marine. And compassionate. And funny. In sum, he was a young man of profound contrasts.

The blue-eyed 20-year-old who was brave enough to drive military transport trucks in Iraq was the same man who sang to his fiancee from her favorite film, “Moulin Rouge,” and who obligingly rented — and enjoyed — tear-jerkers, like “The Notebook.”

And he was the man who ended all his calls and e-mails to his fiancee with the same bittersweet message: “I’ll see you soon.” Those words hung on Angalene Snipes’ lips Sunday afternoon.

“The last couple of days, it’s been me saying, ‘Maybe it’s been a mistake, maybe I will see him again,’ ” she said.

Lance Cpl. Veater died Friday from wounds suffered while on a Marine combat mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, according to the Department of Defense. Further information on the incident was not available Sunday.

At the Snipes home in Jessup, and at the Veater residence in Newton Township, the talk had been of weddings prior to Friday. Lance Cpl. Veater and Miss Snipes were planning to be married May 26, and shower paraphernalia still sits in the Snipes’ closet. Now, instead, two families are facing the unthinkable task of preparing for a funeral for later this week.

In a tribute to their love, Lance Cpl. Veater will be buried wearing a wedding ring.

“He was my best friend,” Miss Snipes said. “I’m so proud of him. I really am.”

So, too, are his parents and siblings.

“When they asked him, he said, ‘If you need me, I will go,’” said his father, Donald Veater, a retired Marine sergeant major.

It didn’t surprise Donald and Donna Veater that the youngest of their six children, a member of the Marine Forces Reserve, would volunteer to go to Iraq when his unit needed volunteers.

What surprised them, three years ago, was that of their children, it was young Dennis who enlisted.

“I assumed one of them would — especially with four boys,” said Mr. Veater, “but I wouldn’t have expected Dennis to be the one.”

Dennis was also the one, his parents recalled, who served as the family clown on vacations and whenever the situation demanded. “He was the entertainer,” his dad said.

Then again, they weren’t wholly surprised that he would follow in his father’s footsteps.

“He grew up around Marines,” Mr. Veater said. “He was used to it. He wasn’t afraid of people yelling.”

The family room of their home bears testament to the family’s military heritage. There are portraits of Mr. Veater and his brothers in their uniforms, now joined by Lance Cpl. Veater in his.

With dad a career military man, he grew up in North Carolina, California and Japan before the family settled in Northeastern Pennsylvania, near Mr. Veater’s parents, when Lance Cpl. Veater was in 11th grade.

So when he decided to enlist at 17, his parents proudly signed the paperwork.

“He didn’t go into the military blindsided,” Mrs. Veater said. “He knew, at some time, he might have to go away.”

Later this week, he will return, a hero mourned. Lance Cpl. Veater’s body is at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and will be flown home in the coming days.

His parents spent the weekend with family and friends, and will begin the task of formally planning his funeral today. They expect it to be held by week’s end.

Choking back tears, his father reflected on the young man’s resolve to live up to his beliefs.

“He prepared himself better than a lot of young guys I know,” Mr. Veater said, reflecting on a video Dennis made for young Dominick recently.

From the Tribune

Related Link:
Dennis J. Veater killed during combat operations