When Tristan Laue joined the Army in July 2016, he never envisioned an enlistment that would be cut drastically short, but an indiscriminate universe had other ideas.
Laue was medically discharged from the service in April 2018 after it was discovered that the young soldier had developed a rare form of liver cancer.
Determined to battle the disease, Laue carried on with his life, attending the University of Northern Iowa while seeing his relationship with his girlfriend, Tianna, blossom in ways her family never expected.
“Talking to my mom ... she said, ‘Some people don’t get what you two had in the amount of time, like they’ll be together for years and still not have the same connection that you guys did,’” Tianna told KWWL.
But Tristan’s illness continued to advance relentlessly, diminishing with it the couple’s hopes for a long life together.
With the writing on the wall becoming more clear with each passing day, Laue made the decision to pursue one final wish and proposed to Tianna on Easter Sunday.
But his health was declining, and rapidly.
Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Laue’s family enlisted the help of the local community, which put together a ceremony just 48 hours after he proposed, KWWL reported.
In the backyard of Tristan’s family home, the couple exchanged vows, becoming Mr. and Mrs. Laue.
Just five hours later, the 20-year-old veteran succumbed to his disease — dying after a nearly two-year battle.
Tristan Laue was buried May 4 in Waverly, Iowa.
His former classmates created a GoFundMe page to raise money for a memorial in his honor.
“All proceeds will be going directly to the memorial as well as any funds left over will be going to help his loved ones in any way they need!” the page says. "Help us remember a great Chickasaw who brought laughter and kindness to us all!”
Tianna Laue, married for just five hours before losing her husband, told KWWL the lessons she’s learned from the experience, however brief, will last a lifetime.
“Make sure you tell people you love them because you never know when you won’t be able to.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.