Paul Wenceslaus Pena
West Point, 2004
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Matthew Bodie on February 3, 2010:
This is the transcript of the eulogy that I gave at the funeral:
"On behalf of Mike Normand, Cory Wallace, TJ Root, Danny McManus, and everyone else from Paul�s West Point family that could not attend this service, I would like to offer our deepest sympathy to Paul�s mother, Cecelia. Madre, it is not by choice that these young men could not be here with us today, for they are somewhere far away fighting the very fight that took Paul away from us. I have spoken with each of them, and they each offer their sincerest condolences.
I first met Paul on 29 June 2000 at West Point on what is called "Reception Day," or R-Day for those familiar with the institution. This is the infamous day where new cadets are "welcomed" to West Point to the tune getting yelled at and hazed by upperclassmen. Aside from getting hazed and doing push-ups with fellow recruits that I just met, my only other recollection of R-Day was that it relentlessly poured down rain that day, and many times that summer. Perhaps I never realized it at the time, but as I started to forge new friendships with cadets such as Paul, this rain truly foreshadowed that something bad was going to happen to several members of the Class of 2000. Well, unfortunately it is raining once again today, and Paul is officially the 11th classmate of ours to die in action in the past 6 years.
The reason that I mention R-Day is because aside from JROTC in San Marcos, R-day back in 2000 was officially the day that Paul began doing what he loved -- serving our nation as a soldier. While the rest of us cadets were scared of the unknown that summer, Paul truly enjoyed every minute of his training. Up until that fateful moment of Paul�s death in Afghanistan, Paul was proud to don the uniform each day, and he loved being a soldier more than anything in the world. The Army was truly Paul�s home.
Through our years at West Point, I can remember sharing just about every memorable moment with Paul. I have vivid memories of Paul from each important event at West Point including Beast, Camp Buckner, Yearling Winter Weekend, 500th night, Ring Weekend, 100th night, and Graduation. One thing that I will never forget about Paul is his unwavering faith in our Lord through the good times and the bad. Anyone who knew Paul, knows that he was a man of faith. As we progressed through West Point together, Paul and I used to go to mass together on many Sundays. I remember that no matter how hard things got, Paul always relied on his faith to help him achieve.
While the rest of us found ample time to moan, groan, and complain about how difficult it was, I never once heard Paul complain about how hard things were. Paul had a quiet confidence about himself that I always wished to emulate, but could not. I truly looked up to him because he was the humblest friend I�ve ever had. Even though Paul didn�t exactly graduate at the top of his class, he is truly at the top of the Class of 2004 today when it comes to valor, bravery, and dedication. Not only was Paul dedicated to all of his friends; he was truly dedicated to being the best soldier he could be for his country. Simply put, Paul was the best of all of us.
While the rest of us may not have appreciated all aspects of being a soldier such as hard, physical training, and "roughing" it out in the wilderness, rain, cold, and mud, Paul loved it for some strange reason. Anyone who knew Paul knows that Paul loved the outdoors. Paul told me that he dreamed of moving back to Alaska after he retired from the Army. Although I�ve never been to Alaska, my wife, Megan, and I dreamed of visiting Paul up there someday in the future and experiencing the majesty of the outdoors that Paul loved so dearly. Unfortunately, this dream will never happen because the last time that I will ever get to spend outdoors with Paul was fishing on a lake in Georgia last year before he deployed. Neither of us caught any fish that day. Perhaps this is another sign of what was to come.
Like everyone here, I wish that I had cherished the last moments I spent with Paul just a little more. His death was so sudden, and when I first heard of it, I honestly did not believe it. I spent the whole morning of the 20th researching casualty reports and story boards with my Brigade S2 officer down in our vault. I did not fully believe and comprehend it until Paul�s cousin, Cristina, called me on the phone to confirm it. Calling Paul�s mom that night to offer condolences was the hardest phone call I ever had to make. Paul truly was not only a good soldier, he was a great friend and a wonderful son to Cecelia. My heart truly aches for you, Madre, for words cannot express how much of wonderful son Paul was. Please know that as we try to move forward, all of us who were friends with Paul are here to do anything for you. While our friendship will never take the pain away from losing your son, I sure hope that it will help his spirit live on within each of us.
While today is truly the saddest day of my life, I will offer everyone this. We should be proud of Paul, not only for what he accomplished, but for who he was. He was the most humble and loyal friend that I have ever known. He truly was a brother in arms, and a man of faith. His legacy will never be forgotten. I do not have any bad memories of Paul, and I will never forget the good times we shared together.
In closing, a wise man once told me that everything happens for a reason. Well, right now, it is hard to think of a good reason for Paul leaving us. However, God works in mysterious ways, and whatever that reason is, I am sure that Paul is in a better place right now. We will all see you soon, Paul. We love you, and we will never forget you."
CPT Matthew Bodie