A Year After His Death, Soldier's Family Reflects

It has been one year since Army Capt. Doug DiCenzo of Plymouth, N.H., was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. On the anniversary of his death, DiCenzo's widow and family share thoughts on how his loss has changed their lives.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

One year ago today, Army Captain Douglas DiCenzo was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. He is one of more than 3,400 U.S. military personnel who have died in the Iraq war. His family is one of the thousands dealing with the lasting grief of their loss.

Shannon Mullen reports on what life has been like for the family since Captain DiCenzo's death last year.

SHANNON MULLEN: When Doug DiCenzo died, some friends told his wife Nicole to wait a year before she made any major decisions.

Ms. NICOLE DiCENZO: Yeah. The magic words, you'll know in a year, figure it out in a year, and I'm like, okay, what's so fabulous about a year?

MULLEN: When word came that her husband was killed, DiCenzo was living on an Army base in Germany with their 16-month-old son.

Ms. DiCENZO: I don't have a house. Okay, so next major decision - where do I go? So how can I not make a major decision?

MULLEN: DiCenzo considered going back to her native South, but family and friends were scattered, so she decided to stay near her husband's family in Plymouth, New Hampshire. She wants her son to grow up where his father did, to get a sense of who he was.

Ms. DiCENZO: He'll have that environment that Doug loved - everybody that knew him, that could tell stories that I can't tell him. And Doug loved the outdoors and, you know, ran up mountains for fun. So...

MULLEN: Plymouth is small, about 6,000 people, and most of them know DiCenzo's story, so she says they don't ask painful questions.

She found a church she likes and took an interior design course, and she's staying busy fixing up the house she just bought. She's put up pictures of her husband everywhere - wedding photos, family candids, military portraits. On the couch, there's a blanket made from his dress shirts. And she just hung up a pair of antlers from a caribou he shot when they were stationed in Alaska.

Ms. DiCENZO: Some people deal with it by taking stuff away, and I deal with it by surrounding myself. It's - he's here, you know.

MULLEN: The war is a daily reminder for Doug DiCenzo's mom, Cathy Crane, and her husband Mark Burzynski.

Ms. CATHY CRANE (Douglas DiCenzo's Mother): You know, you're constantly hearing that troops have died, hearing that Iraqis have died, whatever it is. And I think that's what makes us think of Doug even more.

Mr. MARK BURZYNSKI: You always cringe when you hear somebody was killed. Used to be just names.

MULLEN: The state is honoring Doug DiCenzo by dedicating a new bridge to his memory. Crane says events where legislators read lists of his honors have been moving but painful.

Ms. CRANE: And there were so many accolades that he had that you hear more of all the time, and we forget he's Doug to us. You know, he's just a good person.

MULLEN: This summer, DiCenzo's family is sending 30 kids to camp with donations people made to a scholarship fund they set up in his memory. To mark the day he died, they plan to hike one of his mountain trails and have a barbecue with friends. It's a milestone they say they're glad to pass, even though it just marks the start of another year without him. For NPR news, I'm Shannon Mullen.

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