LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Flipping through pages of his own book, 34-year-old Donleigh Gaunky shares a story all too real and one that hits close to home.
Because home is where Donleigh had to escort his brother Alex, who died during their deployment in Iraq in November of 2005, when he was 19 years old.
It's a story that's already been written and etched into his memory for years.
The Hardest Journey Home: A True Story of Loss and Duty During the Iraq War, highlights Donleigh's military career. And the rare event of a soldier escorting the remains of his own brother.
"It's a a lot more difficult to go through some of that kind of a loss than people are ready for, you're never ever prepared for those kinds of things."
The book is a window to his vivid memories.
Like the day he was reading through an army database of current events, and had to look twice.
"And it's got my little brother's unit designation, it's the first time I had seen that so far in the six weeks that I had been on that deployment so it's like okay that could be really good or this could be really bad."
Donleigh emailed his brother that day to ask if he was okay.
His question was answered, when he never got a response.
Donleigh explains all he could feel was shock.
"So I was just more or less on autopilot, you're just kind of taking what you need to take in to do whatever it is that you need to do to get through the day or whatever the process is."
It was the hardest journey home indeed, but a soldier's journey continues long after the war dust settles.
Doneligh's book is a testimony to that sentiment.
He reads part of a poem in the book he wrote for his brother:
"My brother gave his whole heart, and all that he believed, bravest of the brave, heart of all our hearts, my brother knew that in ours, his love would never part."
For those interested in reading The Hardest Journey Home, it can be found at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
There will be a signing for the book on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Barnes and Noble in La Crosse.
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