By Victor O’Brien

Fort Hood Herald

Former soldier and overseas contractor Michael Romain, 48, was his mother’s only son and the only one she ever needed. He was a doting husband who celebrated his loving wife all over the world. He was an inspiring father who lived to show his sons how to live.

On Dec. 1, Romain, considered a hero by his family, died instantly in Iraq when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded alongside a truck Romain and three other men were riding in.

Michael and his wife, Mona Romain, of Morgan’s Point, had been counting the days over text messages until he came home. Sunday was 13 days away. This is not how his return was supposed to be, said his mother, Joan Romain.

The Romains were waiting Thursday for Michael’s body to be returned to Central Texas. Michael left in September for his third tour with General Dynamics. As a communications technician, he helped repair Army communications lines when they failed.

Michael joined General Dynamics at Fort Hood in 1996 after serving in the Army for 10 years. His mother followed him to Morgan’s Point from Pasadena, a town just outside of Houston where he grew up. She knew her only son would take care of her; her husband died several years ago.

Joan tried to talk Michael out of this tour of duty, but he insisted he had a job to do. When a representative from General Dynamics knocked at Joan’s door Monday, she told them, “You better not be telling me something bad.”

She instantly broke down in tears and called Michael’s son, Jason.

“It’s like you just can’t believe it,” Joan said Thursday.

Mona married Michael 157 weeks ago. She knows the exact number because Michael reminded her — as he did every time they talked — in his last text message sent Sunday. He was concerned about repairing a communication line he had already repaired. He told Mona not to worry.

“Hope you know and realize how much you mean to me. ... You’re my everything, mind, body and soul. You’re my best friend and soulmate. ... I thank God for you and for our marriage. ... I miss you terribly,” he wrote.

They met a few years ago through a friend of Mona’s son-in-law. However, they soon found out that they attended the same school in Pasadena, but had never met.

“We just kept crossing paths, but one day we hit the right path where we were together,” she said.

Mona said they celebrated their love all over the world even if they were separated by oceans. In June 2009, Michael and Mona were to renew their vows in Priano, Italy, where they had met for a romantic get-away during another tour of duty. They also reunited in France once.

Billy Stephenson, chairman of the Defense Contractors Council, said contractor fatalities are rare unless the contractor works in a security capacity, but they do happen.

Typically, contractors are like Michael, former soldiers, who know the areas to avoid and how to act safely. But no one can prepare for an unexpected grenade.

Michael’s sons, Jason and Ryan Romain, said they still haven’t felt the full weight of their father’s death. Jason said his father not only taught him to follow his faith and raise a family but also to be a good man.

Jason said he always knew his father loved him whether they were playing catch in the backyard, dueling over a football game on Sega Genesis or arguing over Sunday football games.

“He’d always root for the Cowboys, and I’d always root for the opposite team.”

Those memories are ones Jason hopes to share with his two sons.

Family members said Michael was the kind of man who lived to make life better for others. They said when he died Monday, he was no doubt doing what he loved.

“Don’t ever forget me. He was always saying that, but how could I ever forget him, he was the love of my life,” Mona said.

The Romains said they plan to have a memorial ceremony with Michael’s friends from across the United States once his body is returned.

Contact Victor O’Brien at vobrien@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7468.

(1) comment

Jeffrey Guymon

I was there when Mr. Romain died. It's a haunting reality for me, and I will never forget this man's name. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't think about him. Now, almost 10 years later, I am talking about it. I was the Soldier who requested his expertise/assistance, and he agreed to have our PSD platoon escort him out to my location from the big Forward Operating Base (FOB) Camp Liberty, where he was being quartered. My unit, the 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment was operational throughout most of Western Baghdad. My unit specifically was in a Joint Security Station (JSS) in the Ghazaliya neighborhood of Baghdad and we hadn't been in that AO very long. We arrived in Iraq from Kuwait on my birthday, October 27th 2008. I had just turned 30 years old. Our Squadron had a few enemy encounters happen by this point, but none of them had lead to any casualties yet. I was in charge of all tactical communications for the two operating units secured within JSS Gazalyia I. Those units were Headquarters Troop (HHT) and the Squadron itself. This was the location of our unit's master Tactical Operations Center for the entire Squadron, who's subordinate Troops (Apache, Blackfoot, and Comanche Troops) were all spread out among other Baghdad locations. "Ghaz 1", as it the JSS was termed, was not very big. The dimensional area of the T-wall lined perimeter was about the size of a typical city block. Within the perimeter, there were roughly six 2 story Iraqi style houses which were being occupied by American troops, as well as an Iraqi Army outfit. We hardly had any interaction with them and they pretty much did their own thing, and had their own SOP's for patrols, rotations etc... At the time, our perimeter only contained one Entry Control Point (ECP). It was located on the southeast corner of the JSS, adjacent to a watchtower built out of concrete cylinders, and meant specifically for overwatch of the ECP movement. These watchtower cylinders were on all corners of the JSS, but this was obviously the main one. Outside of the ECP was a very "hot" route that we dubbed "Route Cecil". I'm honestly not sure how it got its name (outside of the obvious being able to pronounce it), but it was a hot bed of activity. Mr. Romain was escorted to our area of operations early that morning. Once he got there, he was linked up with myself to get a piece of communications equipment called a D-LOS up and operational. Without this particular equipment running, we would not have Secure automated communications, which was a big problem obviously. It took all day to get the device to function at an operationally green status, but eventually Mr. Romain reprogrammed it and all was well. That same evening he was given option to be quartered and accommodated at Ghaz 1 overnight, but he requested not to. PSD platoon once again geared up, conducted their pre-combat checks and briefings, brought Mr. Romain in their convoy, locked and loaded, then rolled outside of the ECP. I don't remember what time it was, but I remember that it was dark. Probably around 2200 hours I'm guessing. Almost immediately the ground shook, and a loud explosion occurred. An Iraqi insurgent, who was camping right outside of our ECP, in the alleyways of the opposing neighborhood, threw an RKG-3 handheld grenade at our convoy. Specifically the one containing Mr. Romain. It was a direct hit and he wasn't wearing any protective gear, so the shrapnel caught him without any resistance. He was DOA and was returned to Ghaz 1 by unit medical and security personnel. One by one, MRAP vehicles were off loading our injured Soldiers on litters, and brought into the aid station. Mr. Romain was offloaded last because he was already deceased. I won't go into details about that, but it is something I don't like to remember. I'm not sure who will ever read this, but I thought it would be some good insight to what ccured here and also provide me a bit of an outlet for my own reasons. I hope this helps.

Jeff G.

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