Yes, he was a Republican, but an "old school" Republican. The kind who considered himself a patriot, and was against "big" government and fiscally conservative. But it was this Republican that took me out to dinner the day of Kerry's defeat to console me, and admitted for the first time in his life he had actually voted against his own party. He was angered by the Bush administration, felt this war was was motivated solely by economics, and thought the party had been hijacked by religious zealots.
Gene had spent years after returning to private life working as a union labor negotiator at Anhesier Busch brewery, and could size up a person or situation with a very keen eye that I really admired. When I met him he was in the process of dying a slow death by leukemia, that he always attributed to being exposed so heavily to "Agent Orange" in Vietnam. The last year of his life we spent a lot of time together as friends, and I took him to art museums and discussed classic art with him as he seemed hungry to understand it. He tickled me by always buying postcards of the fine art he had seen in the museum to remember the artist and piece, and he made notes on the back of each. For his birthday that last year I surprised him with a double portrait illustration, "Gene as Devil and Angel" and he was as delighted as a child with it. I always knew he had a crush on me, but he was clear I was a lesbian and as a gentleman never acted on it. We truly became the best of friends, as odd as it might have seemed to others. When he died in December 2006, I got a manila envelope full of scribbled museum postcards to remember him by.
So today I honor my friend for his service to this country. Just one small story about one solider, one of the countless men and women that generously gave us this life by their service.
Miss you Gene-O.