Tonya Guyton said Wednesday that her husband's death almost two weeks ago still doesn't seem real.

Maybe that's because 22-year-old Brenham native Larry I. Guyton died in a war zone in a far-off country, or perhaps it's the shock that often accompanies grief.

The soldier's body in a flag-draped casket was removed from a plane during a solemn ceremony at a Conroe airport Tuesday, but Guyton said she still couldn't fathom that he was gone.

"Even though I saw him yesterday, I can't believe he's dead," she said. "I needed closure, but it didn't change."

Dozens of soldiers and veterans were at the airport to honor the private first class, who died this month after a bomb detonated near his vehicle during combat in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Christopher N. Hamlin, 24, of London, Ky., also died following the explosion in Baghdad.

Guyton joined the U.S. Army two years ago, Tonya Guyton said, adding that he enlisted a year after graduating from Bellville High School, where he was a member of the Junior ROTC and the Buffalo Soldiers.

He grew up in Brenham and is the first solider from the city to be killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday in the Brenham High School auditorium. Arrangements are under the direction of Lang Funeral Home in Giddings.

Tonya Guyton, 24, lives in Flatonia with the couple's two sons, 1-year-old Kenyon and 2-year-old Jaidyn.

"For me, it's hard because I have the boys," she said. "I have to be strong for the boys. I have to cope with it fast. But I have my moments [of grief]."

Tonya Guyton said she was told late May 4 that her husband had been injured during combat and was given the phone number of a hospital in Germany where he was being treated so she could check his condition. She quickly made the call and was told he was alive but had extensive injuries. She called again early the next morning and was told he had died, she said.

"All I remember was just falling to the ground," she said. "There was no thought. You can't really think."

Brenham resident Andrea McDonald, Larry Guyton's mother, said family members told her early May 5 that her son had died.

"I just dropped to my knees with the phone and my toothbrush in my hand and just started crying," she said.

McDonald said it was hard to believe that her son was gone because she had spent time with him about two months ago when he came home on leave.

"He walked in the door and it was like this huge bear hug that he gave me, and he was just kissing on me," she said. "My face was plumb wet where he was kissing on me. I'd give anything for my face to be wet like that again."

McDonald said that serving in the Army helped her son mature and realize what really mattered.

"He went in there as a young man, and he came out as a man," she said. "The things the soldiers are fighting for, we take for granted. Larry taught us that you don't take anything for granted. You live each day like it's your last."

The soldier's father, Larry Guyton of Richardson, said that he was concerned for the safety of his son when he enlisted in the military.

"I told him that there's a war going on over there," he said. "He said that he understood that. He even mentioned that he could possibly be killed. But he wanted to do something that would help others, and he thought serving the country would help make the world a better place."

Larry Guyton said he never imagined his son would be killed in combat and was just counting the days until he came home safely.

"Not one time did I think he would not come home," he said. "I feel like part of me is lost and gone forever."

• Arena Welch's e-mail address is arena.welch@theeagle.com.

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