A Tribute to My Uncle, Lt. Col. Rodney Fausett, U.S. Army

Memorial Weekend is not just for barbecues. It's a holiday for remembering departed loved ones who devoted their lives to serving our country.

Lt. Col. Rodney Fausett

My uncle, my mother’s brother, Rod Fausett, was one such man. He died two years ago in April, just two months shy of his 56th birthday.

Uncle Rod had retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2007, after 25 years of military service. Despite all his time in far-flung places during peaceful and turbulent periods, and despite six years of post-Army work as a civilian contractor, it wasn't his job that claimed his life after all.

He died in a motorcycle accident on a bright spring Saturday, April 6, 2013.

Even in retirement, Uncle Rod was serving our country, via his work as a military analyst for L-3 MPRI, a global contracting firm. Had he lived past age 55, I know he would have found a way to keep serving in whatever capacity he could, until his last breath. He was just that kind of man.

Full of life and passion

Uncle Rod was dedicated. Warm-hearted. Articulate. Full of sly wit. Intelligent. A fun goofball. Fond of a good cigar. Wore those trademark Hawaiian shirts whenever possible.

Uncle Rod sports one of his infamous Hawaiian shirts while hanging out with his kids,
from left, Sarah, Jenna and Matthew, Memorial Weekend 2009.
(Photos courtesy of Jenna Fausett)

I never had the chance to know him as well as I would have liked, as he spent most of my childhood in places like Detroit, Florida and Germany, then settled his family in Leavenworth, Kansas, when I was a teenager.

But I do remember a collection of little things, from our trips to Kansas and their visits to Michigan.

I remember his love of storytelling. I remember his fondness for grilling and cooking excellent meals. I remember how he spent hours combing ancestry.com and other genealogy websites for Fausett family records, emailing hundreds of pages of correspondence back and forth with my mom. The project united their curious minds.

I remember his silences. How he could be so quiet, then something would spark that tumultuous belly laugh, and the stoic front would melt into a hundred smile lines.

A deep family bond

As a niece observing his life from a distance, I remember witnessing his bond with his children, Sarah, Jenna and Matthew, and feeling blessed by it. I got the sense that, despite the necessity of uprooting the family for each new assignment, and the pain of divorce and geographical separations, he was the kind of dad who inspired deep devotion and fierce loyalty.

That sense was never stronger than at his funeral. His eldest, my cousin Sarah, read pages of memories she and her siblings had written the night before. My heart ached for her and Jenna, who each would walk down the aisle with their grooms later that year — without their dad to escort them.

His legacy lives on

Even though he's gone, be assured: His legacy lives on in his children.

I see it in Sarah’s wit, intelligence and curiosity, her passion for science — she is a genetic biologist — and her love of travel — she lives in France. I see Uncle Rod’s kindness, sensitivity and groundedness in Jenna, the young mom who lives and works in Leavenworth, Kansas, Uncle Rod’s last base before he retired. I see his often-quiet demeanor and soft heart in Matthew, who works with his hands fixing cars in Lansing, Kansas, not saying much in groups, but quick to smile, fond of a summer fishing trip, and devoted to his mom and sisters.

May you always rest in peace, dear Uncle Rod. May you be richly rewarded for the lives you have touched.

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Unknown said...

Thank you so much, Rachel for these touching words about Dad. We miss him every day. Reading it this morning brought tears of joy and sadness for me (I will have to fix my make-up before I leave for work) It's so special to me that, even though we were not around our extending family much throughout the years, you have such fond memories of the times we were. Dad was an excellent officer and loved his country. He sometimes had to put it before his family but that is the vow any soldier makes. He was dedicated and that is something I can be proud of forever. Thank you again for such a beautiful tribute to him.

Unknown said...

I have no words...lots of cleansing tears and wistful memories of Rod's abbreviated life. Thank you, my beautiful daughter for expressing our love and respect for my amazing brother and his contribution to our great country. RIP, Rod.

Rachel E. Watson said...

Thank you both for reading! I am crying all over again at your kind words. He was truly a good man and a wonderful uncle, even though I couldn't see him as much as I would have liked. He's alive in our hearts forever. <3