He was the man with whom she planned to travel the world. The husband who was supposed to help raise their children. The father who should have taken their sons on camping trips.
This is the memory Alice Mobley carries of a husband who has been gone longer than he was ever here. It's the memory that lives on behind the name, Army Chief Warrant Officer Warren H. Mobley — one of 155 on a new hometown memorial to fallen Vietnam War veterans.
"I don't want him to ever be forgotten," said Alice Mobley, 79, of Tampa.
Decades after they served, Vietnam War service members will be the first group honored at the recently renovated Veterans Memorial Park on U.S. 301 in Tampa. Plans call for 12 theaters of war, sections of the park recognizing armed conflicts in American history.
A black granite memorial now stands surrounded by a women's memorial, two helicopters and engraved bricks. It lists Hillsborough County residents who fought and died in Vietnam.
The memorial came together over the last year, said Bob Silmser, who led the effort. Volunteers raised $70,000 in donations, with a match from county funds.
Vietnam War veterans deserve acknowledgement, he said, after dealing with the effects of an unpopular war.
"I hope that it brings closure to some of these guys," said Silmser, a Vietnam-era veteran and treasurer of the Veterans Memorial Museum and Park Committee.
More than 40 years after their losses, many family members say they have resolved their grief. But they haven't forgotten what they went through.
For a while, Alice Mobley didn't know anyone else who had lost a man in Vietnam. She and her sons kept going as best they could, but they were lonely.
Then they saw his name on a wall in Washington, D.C., on a memorial in Tallahassee and on a traveling exhibit.
"It's nice to know that he's there with other people that went through the same thing he did," Mobley said.
She feels closer to her husband at those memorials, closer than she does at the cemetery where he's buried.
Like Mobley, 64-year-old Annie Evans of Plant City recalls the time around her brother's death as an event silently endured by her family. The war, she said, made people cringe.
She can see her brother's handsome face, his auburn hair more brown than red. Beyond that, she says the memories of Army Cpl. James Arnold Lisenby seem hazy. He was 24 when he died. She was 22.
Evans holds onto just one long-ago recollection:
She was 12 and had walked to the mailbox. There, a big snake scared her.
Evans ran back into the house, terrified. But her big brother went outside and killed it for her.
"He was my hero," she said.
Stephanie Wang can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2443.