By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily 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 Monday, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.