Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Air Force Lt Colonel Kenneth Bourland

Remember Our Heroes

Searchers on Sunday recovered the body of a U.S. Air Force officer and Birmingham native who was among the thousands missing following the Jan. 12 Haitian earthquake that devastated the Carribbean nation. Major Ken Bourland, 37, was found in the ruins of the Hotel Montana, said his mother, Adrienne Bourland, of Cook Springs.

"Air Force officers came to the house this afternoon, about 60 or 90 minutes after Ken's body was recovered" to notify the family, Adrienne Bourland said late Sunday night from her son's home in suburban Miami. "We knew that eventually Ken would be found ... we had confidence that the military people on the ground would find him."

Minutes before the earthquake struck, he exchanged e-mails with his wife, Peggy, in Weston. When she heard about the quake, she went back to her computer. "Please tell me you're OK," she wrote.

But the five-story hotel was leveled. Bourland's body was found Sunday and flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. His remains were positively identified Monday. "We just ask that everyone pray for the family and remember them in this difficult time," said his brother-in-law, Bobby Greer, who referred calls to the U.S. Southern Command.

Bourland worked at Southern Command as the Caribbean desk officer. He was in Haiti with Lt. Gen. Ken Keen and four others from Southern Command, all of whom survived.

"His expertise and contributions helped SouthCom strengthen existing partnerships with defense and security counterparts across the Caribbean," said Southern Commend spokesman Robert Appin.

Bourland was scheduled to be promoted to lieutenant colonel. The Air Force is preparing to act on the promotion posthumously.

Family members remained hopeful Tuesday that a Birmingham native currently missing in Haiti would be found alive.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ken Bourland, 37, of Florida, has been missing since a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti Jan. 12.

“They are still digging and searching,” Adrienne Bourland said.

Adrienne and Dennis Bourland, Ken’s parents, of Cook Springs, traveled to Florida to be with Ken’s wife, Peggy, and their three grandsons last week. "I heard from a friend on Facebook that they turned off the heavy equipment so they could use sonar (acoustic equipment), and they were sure of survivors still remaining in the hotel (where Ken is believed to be trapped),” she said Tuesday afternoon.

A statement released by Peggy Bourland stated Ken was in Haiti on a routine trip with his job at Southcom.

According to the statement, Ken Bourland sent an e-mail from his hotel room, on the second floor, to his wife and three sons moments before the earthquake. “This was the last contact we had with him. Therefore, we are almost 100 percent certain he was in the hotel, possibly in his room, when the earthquake struck,” the statement read. “The USAF and the people of Southcom have informed us of the various rescue teams currently working at the Hotel Montana. They are working tirelessly to rescue Ken and the many others trapped beneath the rubble. We are so thankful for their effort.”

Adrienne Bourland said one of the assistant pastors of Ken and Peggy Bourland’s church, First Baptist Church in Westin, Florida, started a Facebook group called “Praying for the Rescue of Ken Bourland.”

Tuesday afternoon, the group had more than 2,400 members and numerous posts of people praying for Ken’s rescue.

“Things like that, knowing that people are praying for you and care about you, we are just humbled by the things people are doing for us,” Adrienne Bourland said.

Bourland said friends held a candlelight vigil for Ken, and have been posting on Facebook. Other individuals who don’t know the Bourlands, but are still praying for Ken’s safe return, have posted supporting comments as well.

“Facebook has been such a wonderful tool,” Adrienne Bourland said.

Ken Bourland’s parents traveled to Florida last week to be with their daughter-in-law and three grandsons.

“Ken was one of a group of five people representing the Air Force at a conference,” Adrienne Bourland said. She said the conference consisted of several different Caribbean countries, representatives from the United Nations, and other non-governmental organizations involved in disaster relief, including Samaritan’s Purse, American Red Cross, etc. The team helps prepare countries for assistance.

“Ken is the only one of his group still missing,” Adrienne Bourland said Monday afternoon. She said the other four members of his group are alive, although some are injured.

Adrienne Bourland said the family was hoping to hear news of her son’s rescue Monday. “We have not had any word today,” she said Monday afternoon. “But we always look at it as if we haven’t heard any bad news, there is hope. We have never given up hope.”

Adrienne Bourland said her son has had a lot of military and rescue training. He has been on active military duty for 15 years, serving a 2004 tour in Iraq. “Those things are useful in the situation he is in now,” she said. “It is my belief that he will remain calm and conserve his energy. He is a pretty smart fellow.”

Adrienne Bourland said the family is aware of the thoughts and prayers of the people of St. Clair County. “We want to send our appreciation to all those who are thinking of us and praying for us,” she said.

“We are hoping and praying that Ken is alive,” said Paul Brasher, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Eden, where Adrienne and Dennis Bourland are members. Brasher said church members have set up prayer lines, and are in contact with the family for updates on the search efforts. The New Hope Baptist Church marquee reads: “Our prayers are with you Ken Bourland and family.”

“We are hoping his military training, and the Lord even more, will help him survive,” Brasher said.

Brasher said the church held a special prayer time during Sunday night’s worship service, and is considering a prayer vigil, although one has not yet been scheduled.

According to the family’s statement, “We are also thankful for the support of our church, Weston First Baptist (in Florida), and our military family at Southcom and across the U.S. The calls, meals, prayers, Bible verses and numerous other ways you have encouraged us have been so uplifting. Our friends, family and neighbors have been under-girding pillars for us during this agonizing wait. We want to thank you so much!

“We are amazed at God’s love toward us at this time. We are amazed at the great outpouring of support from people all over the USA, some of which have never even met us. The response of so many has brought tears of joy to our eyes. Not only the response, but also the interest in our story by so many caring people has been such a blessing to us.”

In addition to his wife, Bourland is survived by: sons Charley, 3, and Andrew, 16 months; stepson Chance, 14; parents Dennis and Adrienne Bourland, of Cook Springs, Ala. and his sister Kellie Bourland.

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