Friday, March 14, 2008

Army Sgt. 1st Class Collin J. Bowen

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Collin J. Bowen, 38, of Millersville, Md.

SFC Bowen was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Regiment, Maryland Army National Guard, Towson, Md.; died March 14, 2008 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, of wounds sustained Jan. 2 in Khowst Province, Afghanistan, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device.

Soldier injured in Afghanistan bombing dies in Texas hospital
The Associated Press

MARION, Ind. — An Army sergeant from Indiana injured in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan that killed two other soldiers died March 14 at a Texas military hospital, relatives said.

Sgt. 1st Class Collin J. Bowen, 38, a Marion native, was critically injured Jan. 2 in Afghanistan’s Khowst province, a troubled region on the Pakistani border. The Army reservist had been hospitalized at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, since Jan. 6.

Bowen graduated in 1988 from Marion High School. He had lived in Maryland with his wife, Ursula, their daughter and his two stepdaughters.

Bowen’s uncle, Dean Neal, said he received a call about his nephew’s death about 2 a.m. March 14. He told the Chronicle-Tribune that he was grateful he was able to visit Bowen at the Texas hospital about two weeks ago.

“Collin passed away peacefully ... with his family holding his hands at his bedside,” Bowen’s brother Justin wrote in an online journal. “May he rest in peace.”

The online journal had reported during the past two weeks that Bowen’s condition had deteriorated. He had his final of many emergency surgeries March 11 to repair damage to abdominal tissue that had become infected.

Relatives said Bowen, who earned a Purple Heart after being wounded, had volunteered to go to Afghanistan.

His other survivors include his parents, who live in Marion, and two brothers who live in the Indianapolis area. Funeral services were pending March 14.

Two other soldiers — Lt. Col. Richard Berrettini, 52, of Wilcox, Pa., and Sgt. Shawn Hill, 37, of Wellford, S.C. — died in the Jan. 2 bombing, along with an Afghani interpreter.

Soldier wanted to ‘do his part’
By Cathy Kightlinger
Indianapolis Star

MARION, Ind. — Army Staff Sgt. Collin J. Bowen’s mother referred to her boy as “America’s son” during his funeral service Thursday.

“I really share this sadness and pride with everyone,” Carolyn Smith said while greeting mourners who waited in line to comfort her. “He is not just mine. He belongs to everybody.”

Bowen, a 38-year-old Maryland National Guardsman, died a week ago at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

The soldier who grew up in Indiana suffered fatal wounds Jan. 2 in Khowst province, Afghanistan, when the vehicle in which he was riding encountered an improvised explosive device, according to the Department of Defense.

The veteran soldier was at the end of a year’s time in Afghanistan when he agreed to go on his final mission. He volunteered when asked by a new and inexperienced commander who wanted help, family members said. When the fatal explosion occurred on the last day of a 10-day mission, Bowen and others in a convoy were on their way back to base, the family said.

The explosion also killed the three others, including an Afghan interpreter, in the vehicle.

Bowen suffered burns on 50 percent of his body and spent the last weeks of his life on ventilators and dialysis machines, family members said.

“Collin did not want to die,” said his younger brother Justin Bowen, 36, Indianapolis. “He wanted to contribute and do his part.”

Bowen — who grew up in Marion and was known for his competitive spirit, loyalty and tenacity — fought to live, even in the end, said Justin. He and Bowen’s other brother, Shelby, 33, Carmel, gave eulogies in front of about 500 people at Grace Community Church in Marion on Thursday. The family said about 300 more people attended a visitation after the service.

Although he is gone, Justin said, his brother’s heart beats inside him, their family members and, they hope, everyone who honored him at the service.

“I hope a part of Collin’s heart continues in all of you,” he said.

There were a few laughs during the service, too: when the “Rocky” movie theme played as pictures of Bowen’s teenage years flashed on a screen, and as Shelby recalled the Bowen brothers’ childhood antics.

“His life should be celebrated and his memories cherished,” said Shelby.

After the service, Collin’s wife, Ursula Bowen, Nottingham, Md., remembered the last words she exchanged with her husband: “Te amo. Chau” — Spanish words for “I love you. Bye.”

Bowen met his wife when she was his Spanish teacher.

“I’m very proud of him — extremely proud of being his wife,” said Ursula, adding that Bowen always tried to help others.

That included asking family members to send him candy, paper and pencils to distribute to the children in Afghanistan, said Justin.

But Bowen’s courage did not mean he wasn’t frightened in Afghanistan.

“He called my mother and said, ‘I’m afraid,’” said Justin. “That didn’t stop him from doing it.”

Bowen, who earned a Bronze Star for bravery in combat, is the 17th service member with Indiana ties to die of injuries suffered in Afghanistan since U.S. troops were sent there after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the first this year.

Other survivors include three daughters, Gabriela and Katelyn Bowen and Erin McDermott; his stepfather, Richard Smith; and his father and stepmother, Michael and Beverly Bowen, Marion.

Bowen will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Collin J. Bowen was killed in action on 03/14/08.

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