Nearly a year ago, the Eastern Sierra reacted with grief and deep concern over the loss of one of our own in Iraq, Corporal Wayne Geiger of Lone Pine. His family has shared this open letter on the anniversary of Wayne’s passing.
Open Letter from the family of Cpl. Wayne Marshall Geiger
In the early morning hours on October 19, 2007 my family experienced our worst fear. That fear came in the form of a knock at the front door from two uniformed United States Army officers. With tears in their eyes, these two men gently brought us the news that our son, Wayne Marshall Geiger, was killed in action during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq. Within hours the news traveled throughout the Owens Valley and beyond. The response was absolutely overwhelming. Friends, family and co-workers rushed to our home and enveloped us in their arms. Sheriff Bill Lutze and Undersheriff John Eropkin came to our home and immediately took over our family affairs. People and organizations we had never met offered their condolences and assistance in every form imaginable. We cannot adequately acknowledge all the individuals and organizations, and we ask forgiveness from those who we have unintentionally omitted. Additionally, we offer our sincere apologies for not writing this letter sooner; however, until now we could not muster the emotional energy and fortitude needed to express our gratitude.
To Sheriff Lutze, Undersheriff Eropkin and the fine men and women of the Inyo County Sheriffs Office, you have our sincere gratitude. My wife and I are proud to be associated with such consummate professionals who have time and again met every challenge and taken care of their own. Additionally, we want to acknowledge our utmost gratitude to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and Administration who provide ongoing support.
We also want to thank our dearest friends, Jeff and Trina Tropple, Tom and Christy Morgan, Martin Powell, Arlene and Rick Mayfield, Dan Lucas, John and Mariette Gable, Sandee and Todd Kennedy, Laurie and Steve Harner, Gary Leighton, Matt Kingsley, and Debbie Didisse who rushed to our sides and made absolutely certain that our needs were and are taken care of.
Our hearts were deeply touched by all of Wayne’s friends who rushed to our house and continue to visit us. We love your stories about Wayne and cherish the time all of you take out of your busy lives to spend with us. Time and personal commitments have not deterred any of you from extending a helping hand.
We dont know what our community would do without the MOMS club who on a daily basis provide heartfelt support to our troops. These mothers and wives experience the deep anxiety only a parent or spouse with a loved one serving in the hot zones of the world can truly appreciate; their support is ongoing and felt deeply by all who know of their contribution.
We are blessed by all the law enforcement agencies that have provided so much to our family over the decades. We want to especially acknowledge the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Fish and Game whose agencies have always treated our family as their own.
Also, our thanks goes out to the Patriot Guard Riders and Ridgecrest Harley Owners Group whose escorts provided a comforting and protective shield during a time of need. Additionally, Chief Leroy Kritz and the Lone Pine Volunteer Fire Department provided donations and continued support which is sincerely appreciated by our family.
We also wanted to recognize the entire population of the Owens Valley and especially the community of Lone Pine who came out in overwhelming numbers to show support and honor our sons service; Wayne was truly a son of the Owens Valley. The image of so many people standing at the Airport and lining the community sidewalks and highway from Bishop to Lone Pine will remain with us forever.
We also want to thank Doug Buchanan: your timely offer to officiate our sons services, your spiritual support and kind words are deeply appreciated. We are also touched by the poignant and lasting memorial to Wayne dedicated by the Lone Pine High School Board and Administration.
There are many individuals who have who have donated money to our family. All of these donations were forwarded in Waynes name to numerous charitable organizations that provide critical support to veterans and their families.
To the local media organizations, The Inyo Register, KIBS, The Sierra Wave, Sierra Reader, Territorial Review, and the Los Angeles Times – my family sincerely appreciates the in-depth reporting and extraordinary efforts to document and preserve in video and photographs Waynes life and the honor paid to him by our communities.
We want to acknowledge a special thanks to our Casualty Assistance Officer, Chief Warrant Officer Chris Davis, United States Army, because you went beyond military protocol and endeared yourself to our family forever. Chief Davis, your personal and professional integrity is unquestionable and you represent the highest standards of military service.
Carolyn and Paul Steinbacher, the proud Gold Star parents of Spc. Nick Steinbacher who was killed in action on December 10, 2006 while serving with the 1st Calvary Division 2nd Battalion 5th Calvary Regiment in Baghdad, reached out to us immediately upon learning of Waynes death. You brought to us valuable insight and support from a perspective that only a parent who has lost a child can provide. We continue to draw strength from you each day. You taught us that it is possible for us to go on and honor the memory of our son, because he would have it no other way.
The 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, specifically H Company, 2nd platoon, still stationed at Camp Geiger, Baghdad, Iraq, we want to thank you for your unending support and love. You have made us a part of your extended family and we need that support. We are so proud of all of you; your personal sacrifice has been tremendous and we are indebted to you forever. Wayne loved you all so much, and you were truly his band of brothers. We wish to extend a special thanks to Angie and Ben Sockle. Sergeant Ben Sockle and Angie named their newborn son, Geiger James Sockle. Also to Sergeant Victor Brazfield and Spc. Mike Mestas, who have gone out of their way to meet with us while on leave from Iraq. There are so many of youtoo many to name individually. We love you all and are very thankful that your tour of duty is coming to an end.
Finally, to the Geiger, Hawn, and Fasulos families, Kim, Jesse and I could not have survived this tragedy without your unwavering love and support. To Ken and Lyn, you have given this country a wonderful son and true patriot, United States Army Specialist Ryan Decker. Ryan is currently serving in Iraq with the 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, B Troop, 6/8 Cavalry. Ryan and Wayne were not simply cousins, they were the best of friends.
Ryan, Kim, Jesse, and I are so proud of you. On October 13, 2007 you and your wife welcomed into this world the most precious gift a couple can receive. That gift, Ryley Decker, arrived just 5 days prior to your learning of Waynes death. My family asked you to bring Wayne home to us and you accepted without hesitation. From that moment, we knew Wayne was in good hands. Just weeks prior to the life changing and emotionally overwhelming events, you received orders to deploy to Iraq. Ryan, you kept your cool, took care of our son and provided comfort to all of us. Such courage and focus coming from a person just twenty-two years old, about to embark on the dangers and uncertainty of front line combat, is remarkable. We are humbled by the fact that the possible consequences of your service was so painfully and immediately brought into focus by the death of your cousin and the birth of your son. Since your deployment you have served our country with distinction. Our gratitude to you is unending, our love immeasurable, and our hearts burst with pride.
In a seemingly inadequate gesture to show our gratitude to everyone who offered a helping hand and to celebrate Wayne’s life, the Geiger family is holding an open house at our residence, Saturday, October 18, 2008 from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm. We will have a BBQ and potluck. Please stop by so we can say thank you in person and talk about Wayne.
Our deepest respect and gratitude,
Kim, Jesse and Randy Geiger