I’m not going to feel sorry for myself or anyone else who Doug touched in their life and ask questions of “why?” Instead I am going to share with everyone some of the moments that Doug and I shared which makes him so special. Doug asked that his life be a celebration so I am going to try to do my part and fulfill his wishes.
You always hear the commercials on TV, “I want to be like Mike.” Who didn’t want to be like Michael Jordan? Well I wanted to be like Doug, he was my Michael Jordan. I remember when I was in 8th grade sitting at the High School where my brother was a sophomore. He got his first real playing time for the varsity football team a few games into the season. He was playing OLB, and all I can remember is how small he looked. I think the opposing team’s coaches saw the same thing and they tried to run his way about 15 times that game, and every time he answered the call by making a good stop and helping his team win the game. I remember how proud I was of him and how I told myself I wanted to do that some day.
When I entered High School I was pretty immature and probably thought I was too cool for school. Well Doug put a quick stop to that. He taught me that I couldn’t just show up anymore, but that I had to work hard in the classroom, on the field, and in the gym. I accomplished what I did in High School because of Doug and his classmates. I started running, lifting, and becoming a leader. When you start working hard for things they become really important. The summer before my sophomore year, I worked out with Doug and the other seniors all spring and summer. I was always impressed with how hard they worked and how close they were with one another. At the end of the summer about 5 of us went on a mountain bike ride in Wentworth. It was Doug, AC, Josh King, Rich Kelly, and Me. By the end of the trip I was just happy to be able to walk, these 4 maniacs were going over every rock, root, and bump they could find, and after a 2 hour up hill climb there was a 15 minute decent which I don’t think any of them used their brakes. It was a great day, but I just remember how happy I was when it was over and I could get off the bike and feel safe again. I think the other 4 would have done it again if we didn’t have to get home.
It was this adventurous attitude that I remember when I think of Doug. That season we went on to win a state championship in football for the first time in a while at the High School. I felt like the luckiest kid in the world getting to play QB behind my brother the captain and starting at guard. Every Friday a parent would cook an unbelievable spaghetti dinner and Doug and his friends would hang out talking for hours. Every Saturday before the game all of the seniors would go over to the Strickland’s house and they would eat breakfast before every game. Again, Doug’s kid brother would be there tagging along. It was one of the best times of my life. I got to live out everyone’s child hood dream. I got to hang out every day with my big brother, go every where he went, and play alongside him as he and his class led us to a state championship. That was a great year and year that taught me how to do things right. After all of the wins that year we never went out drinking and being reckless, but instead Doug and all of the seniors would get together, hang out and just enjoy being around everyone.
When the football season ended, our family found out that Doug got into West Point. He wanted to go to West Point since the end of his freshman year of high school. I remember how excited he and our family were for him. That winter my childhood dream continued. I wrestled for the varsity team at 130 pounds and Doug wrestled for the varsity team at 140 pounds. There was nothing better than going to a tournament or dual meet and having me and him both win. When he was wrestling I could not relax and I am sure he felt the same. The summer before his senior year about 8 of us went to a wrestling camp down in Pennsylvania put on by the Penn State staff and wrestlers. We were all pretty close to the same weight and we were all pretty good. It was a week long summer camp so we were all excited to wrestle, get better, and to have fun. The only thing is no one wanted to drill with Doug. He was too intense. By the end of the week he had hurt about 4 of us, because he would just wrestle so hard. Camp was supposed to be fun but if you were Doug’s partner all smiles were off. We all were better athletes than Doug, but no one could out work him. He was tireless and while we were all feeling sorry for ourselves for having to wrestle with him, he was already training to win a state championship. Doug started his senior year out great, again making all of us dodge him in the room. Then in a practice right after the New Year his senior season, Doug dislocated his elbow. I saw it first hand, the bone was out about 3 inches, and I swear it was the grossest thing I have ever seen. There was about a month left until the state tournament and it was a 3 month injury. Well, Doug being Doug, he was back in a month after rehabbing as long as he could every day. The only difference was that now he wasn’t the same. All of us who couldn’t drill with him, in the summer and a month before now were beating him. We all talked about it and we never thought he would make it back. It saddened me because while I wanted to win a state championship, I wanted my big brother right there with me. Again, Doug beat all of the odds, and came back to wrestled great at the class and state meets and qualified for the first time in his career for the New England Tournament.
I missed him the next two years of high school, but he would call all the time, take leave from West Point to be at as many of my events as he could. He didn’t have to do this because he had already left me with the greatest gift he could. He taught me how to work hard and be the best I could.
I can remember a lot of things about Doug as if they happened yesterday. I remember when he came back over Christmas my senior year of high school and came down to watch me wrestle in the Lowell Holiday wrestling tournament. He had about 7 days off from West Point so I am sure he wanted to spend 2 of those days in a gymnasium in Lowell, MA. I remember looking at him in my corner when I was wrestling and I knew there was no way I was going to lose. With him there I didn’t know how to fail. Again late that year he had another 4 days off before spending the summer training in Italy. He made my high school graduation and came to the championship baseball game that night. I have a great picture of me, my father, and my brother, with a state championship plaque hanging in my room. He wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
When I went to college at Williams in Western Massachusetts I was so excited to have him only a short distance away at West point. He came up all the time and it was just nice to have him around. Here is a classic Doug story I will never forget. All of my friends at school who had older brothers had their brothers old ID’s to use as fake ID’s in college. I remember asking him and him basically laughing in my face saying there was no chance. I remember pleading with him and him not even contemplating it as an option. I could not fathom that he would not give me his ID because we were so close, but that was Doug. He knew I would find a way to get in trouble, but he wasn’t going to help speed the process along. My freshman year we were playing a football game up at Middlebury. He drove up to Middlebury, VT Saturday from West Point, NY to watch me play. We won the game in the last few minutes and it was an amazing win. After the game we tailgated with the other families and he drove me and two of my buddies back to Williamstown, MA. We wanted to stop and pick up some beers for the ride back. Again he looked at me as if I was from MARS and said no chance. That was him, and I loved him for it, probably not in the short term, but it the long term it was things like this that embodied Doug’s morals.
Finally my junior year of college came around and Doug was out of West Point about 6 months. He was again home at Christmas and this time he got my attention for a different reason. Not much of the social butterfly like his kid brother, Doug was on the phone for about 3 hours a night. He couldn’t be shaken; it was a world before cell phones so he was clogging up my social lines. He would get off the phone and then immediately get back on. I didn’t know who he was talking too, but I knew it was a girl and I knew he was in love. When you talked to him, he was usually pretty sharpe and attentive, but this week it was like he had this 6th grade love daze. Mom and Mark finally got the information out of him and a month later my parents met Nic. He then completed ranger school and was heading to Alaska. He had been with Nic for roughly 4 months and he asked her to marry him. I think this was a great decision and I could have told you 4 months earlier at Christmas that this was going to happen. Normally, when parents discover this vital information and that their son didn’t know this girl for that long, they would ask questions. Not when it came to Doug. He didn’t know how to make a bad decision. If it was me, my parents would have made me move from wherever I was to a place far away. With Doug, none of us were worried. When I finally met Nicole I knew why. They were perfect together. I am so happy that my brother was able to find the love of his life.
The next 6 years I have never seen Doug happier. He was with the love of his life. When ever Doug had leave from the army or free weekends he and Nic would always travel to any mountain, lake, vineyard, or interesting place they could find. They would always want to be around their families and people they loved. Then last February Doug and Nic had their first son Dakin. My nephew is the most exceptional thing my eyes have ever seen. Even after Dak was born I would get 50 pictures a month emailed to me about the places they have been and the things they have seen. I hope in everyone’s lifetime they get to fall in love like Nic and Doug.
I was always proud to be Doug’s brother but never more proud then when he went to West Point and decided to serve the country. I am thankful to have such a wonderful brother to look up to and show me how to be a better person. He will always be with me and all of us. My family and I are not sitting here regretting what he chose to do, or regretting that we didn’t spend enough time with him. We know that Doug had a wonderful life, lived every day to the fullest, and served the country proud. We are so happy to have Nic and her family as a part of ours.
I want to thank everyone for reading this. My family and I are really overwhelmed with all of the support. To my brother Doug, I miss you; I will think about you every day, and thanks for serving the country proud so we can enjoy a better place.
– Dan DiCenzo