Sunday, October 16, 2011

SSG Brian Cowdrey: "Who shall I send?"

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

(KJV Isaiah 6:8)

February 2010 during Operation Moshtarak - Brian providing aid to wounded Medic Casey Morrison. (Brian said on his FB page at the time he shared this picture: This photo was taken by an AP embed named Brenan Lindsley... if there was ever a guy who could capture those telling moments it was him! Thank you Brenan for sharing our story!!)

Marjah (Brian on far left)

Brian gave his life two days ago as a dedicated US Army Flight Medic.

Here, here, here, (Part 1, with links to the others) here and here.

I WILL have more later about this special man: devoted husband, father, son, brother, brother-in-arms of all who had the privilege of serving with him, (and my 'nephew') - who humbled me by calling me his friend, but for now, here is a video that Jake, one of Brian's sons, made. I believe it is the first video he ever made. Yes, the second is also about his dad, and I will share that another day.


October 15, 2011

It is with heavy hearts and deep sorrow that we announce the death of our soldier, Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey, 39, who died Oct. 13 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, from injuries suffered during combat operations. Brian was a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend, a mentor, and a very passionate and dedicated flight medic with the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.. His death leaves a hole in our hearts that can never be filled. There are no words adequate enough to express how much Brian was loved, how much he will be missed, and how the lives he touched – and saved – will be forever changed because he was on this earth.

Brian married the love of his life and high school sweetheart, Kimberly Jill, and they had 17 wonderful years together. One only had to take one look at the two of them together to know that a man and wife couldn’t love each other more. Brian had a secret smile only for Jill.

Brian loved the outdoors. Hunting with his brother Quentin was something he looked forward to every year. He also loved driving around in his truck with his family, listening to his favorite songs (“Rise Above” by Seether was always blaring), eating his wife’s home cooked meals, taking his German Shepherd for walks and spending quality time with family and friends, especially his sons.

He enjoyed visiting his mother, Donna, brother, and sister-in-law Jennie and their two daughters Morgan and Julia in Ohio. He also enjoyed taking trips back to his hometown of La Junta, Colorado, to visit his wife’s family, including his father-in-law Jay and his wife Cathy, and mother-in-law Tami and her husband, Ron. He most recently saw nieces Micaly, Morgan, Matyson, Trinity and Bianca, as well as brothers and sisters-in law.

He had a special relationship with everyone in his family and recently discovered new Cowdrey family connections that he was excited to learn more about. He had so many friends made from every chapter in his life and in every place he lived.

He was so proud of his oldest son, Justin, for graduating basic training last summer and for becoming a 15T with a flight crew. His middle son, Nathan, dreams of going to West Point and becoming an officer. His youngest son, Jacob, just wants to grow up to make a positive difference in the world, just like his dad and his brothers.

Brian was a man who didn’t show emotion easily, but his family and friends always knew how he felt about them. He took his job seriously and held himself and his soldiers to a high standard of excellence. He felt that his patients deserved the best, and we know that is exactly what they got. Brian was a true example of a servant leader – he often expressed how honored he was to be able to aid our men and women in uniform when they needed him. He led by example, and he led with honor, integrity, compassion, and strength.

He loved a good joke and a good story. One of his favorite things to do was playing Xbox with his boys. Where else but the Cowdrey household would you find not one, but three Xboxes going at the same time? Where else but the Cowdrey household would you hear a father coaxing hisson to play more Halo? “But dad, I don’t wanna play Halo anymore…” “Just ten more minutes, Nate!” Brian loved getting all of his boys and their friends online to play Xbox. It will not be the same without “Lasercow” leading the charge.

The family he leaves behind is devastated, but takes some comfort in knowing that Brian, as he commonly went by, died doing a job he loved and was committed to doing. Brian chose to re-enlist and go with “his guys” to Afghanistan for a fourth deployment rather than take a non-deployable job as a flight medic instructor at Ft. Rucker, Ala. He did not hesitate to serve his country, both on U.S. soil and overseas. The amount of messages online, phone calls, text messages, and sheer outpouring of support have been phenomenal. We are truly touched by all of the love and support.

Brian wanted people to know what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for people to look past what was in the media. He often shared videos and photos from his deployments and would explain to all who would listen what was going on. He would help people understand the kind of missions he went on, what it took to save lives, and all of the good that was happening out in the field. He was proud of those he worked with, those he served, and he was and will always be a true AMERICAN HERO.

Brian, we love you, and while this pain and sorrow will never go away – over time it will fade. The memories we have of you, and the love and moments we have shared, never will. You will live on for always in our hearts, and your legacy lives on in your children and in all those whose lives you have touched.

John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

-The Cowdrey Family

(From Julia Jensen, who says: This is Brian with Jill and all of his boys. Jacob, Nathan and Justin. This is a few years old but one of my fave family pics of them.) *All pictures and video used with permission*

At the end of my last conversation with him, Brian's words to me were:

October 2
[...] You truely are my family Aunty! Love you!

Brian, as I told you then, with my last words to you:

October 2
Thank YOU for the honour, Brian! Stay safe out there. I love you, too....

My heart is with Brian's wife and best friend, Jill; their beloved sons; Donna, Brian's mom; Quentin, Brian's brother, and all the Cowdrey family. With respect and gratitude.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Soar through the Heavens, Brian. DUSTOFF!!!

[SA Germany has added an update with links to pictures of the Memorial Service held for Brian In Afghanistan, and of him arriving home in Dover, here]"

* **MSgt CJ Grisham - close friend of Brian's - shared this on 10/18, and I found it on FaceBook:**

CJ Grisham posted the eulogy delivered by his Platoon Sergeant in Afghanistan. ... it is beautiful and very "Brian".

SSG Cowdrey Eulogy

Today we celebrate the life of SSG Robert Brian Cowdrey. He was born the 26th of May 1972. He called Sanford North Carolina home with his wife Jill and their two sons Justin and Nathan. Their eldest son Nathan followed closely in his father’s fo...otsteps, joining the Army to become a Blackh...awk crew chief assigned to the medevac company out of Germany. A fact we all know made SSG Cowdrey very proud. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

SSG Cowdrey joined the Army in 2003. Just a year later he was deployed to Iraq where he worked at the Abu Ghraib prison. This is where the first exposure to flight medicine occurred. He has told me stories of how flight medics would come and go, with all the confidence and charisma flight medics’ project. In an instant a flight medic was born. He took the necessary steps and finished the Flight medic course in 2006. He was then assigned to C Co, 3/82. He has been in this unit since its creation. To say he believed in the mission is a true understatement.

It is an honor to be in front of you today celebrating SSG Cowdrey. As his Platoon Sergeant I didn’t know him as well as the Pilots, Crew chiefs and medics in his platoon. I say his Platoon because just 7 months ago it was his platoon. I know it must have been hard for him to take the step back and allow me to take the reins but he never let on. He did so with the utmost respect and support. I truly feel he enjoyed the freedom from the administrative part of this job. It allowed him more time to do what he loved. Train the soldiers. He is a natural leader and instructor.

That doesn’t mean SSG Cowdrey didn’t have a reputation…a reputation of a leader that chose the hard right over the easy wrong. That doesn’t always make you popular but that didn’t matter to him. The welfare and success of his soldiers did. Through his tough leadership style he earned the respect of those that he worked with. That is how he built such strong friendships.

I was reminded of a resent time where Ms. Narhi and I were out at the aircraft talking about girl stuff with SSG Cowdrey working away caught in the middle. We apologized for making him feel uncomfortable and his quick response was “Its ok I am used to it. I have a wife” He proceeded to tell us they have been married for 18 years but they have known each other since they were in 3rd grade. He talked about how bad he tormented her back then, about chasing her around and about how lucky he was to have her. The joy those memories brought back to him was really something to see. Some people will only dream of such a deep love in their lifetime. It was a moment won’t forget. A realization that there is so much more than a reputation and what we see.

It would truly be a shame if we talked about SSG Cowdrey and we didn’t mention his love for dogs. The loyal best friend. He has had many of his own as well as helped many through the foster program he was involved with back home. But the story doesn’t end there. About a month or so ago in the early morning hours a mission came down and the crews were called to the CP. It was an urgent mission where a dog had been hit and needed to be moved for veterinary care. Needless to say as early as it was some thought it’s just a dog. It was SSG Cowdrey that pulled everyone on board with a simple look and statement “It’s a military working dog. He’s one of ours. Let’s go get him.” SSG Cowdrey was like that about every mission.

We will all miss the speed walk to the chow hall, the smell of Brut, his hard core music, as well as the laughter and amusement coming from his room. He was after all the best Call of duty player in the platoon.


Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Thank YOU, CJ...


K-Dubyah said...

Awh Brat. Tis so hard right now. Every word I read of Brian brings on the tears again. While I didn't get the chance to talk to Brian personally, our group talks gave me the wonderful advantage to know this man was one of the special ones. We both know he will be sorely missed by all of us.

I can't imagine the heartsick pain his family is enduring. But we will support them as best we can and as they allow.

As always, we will carry Brian in our heart and will speak his name in remembrance.

AW1 Tim said...

May God bless and keep him, and comfort his family and friends.

I only knew Brian through facebook, but as a former aircrewman, I understand his passion for his work, and the love for his comrades.

Dbie said...

Beautiful. You did a simply beautiful job writing about Brian and the family. I can see your tears of sorrow and pride, all mixed together. We will miss him so much. It hurts.

kate said...

Thanks AB. That was beautiful. Love ya Brian!

Louise Doucette Johnson said...

"A.B" -- I know your heart aches with a deep hole in it right now as theirs does and words are just that...words. I share your heart ache, pain and tears for this wonderful Hero as so many of us do today. It especially hurts so badly for those he left behind...his family. Doing what "we do" on a daily basis hurts so daggon much lately. Just want you to know my good friend, I share all of what you are going through too! Much love to all! louise (brat pack supporter!!)

Anonymous said...

I suppose there will come a day when I can read about this fine young man without tears falling. Not now though. Our caregiver warriors are so incredibly special. Prayers for his family who must be in unspeakable pain.


Valerie said...

Thanks Aunty -- that video was hard enough to watch -- and I've seen the other. You meant the world to him and he meant the world to all of us. Not ashamed that I am sobbing as I type -- he was supposed to land at Dover about 1/2 hour ago -- but we all know the real Brian is in Heaven with his Heavenly Father.

We'll see you on the other side my friend...DUSTOFF!!!

Anonymous said...

I am so so sorry to hear of Brain death. My heart, sorrow and prayers go to Brian’s family and all of the Cowdrey family. Brian was a part of my life while he was in Iraq. I had just become an Angel with Soldiers Angels and was given Brian’s name to help support Dustoff.
Brian helped make the experience of giving to the boys and girls of Goddard Daycare in West Lawn PA a very joyful experience. The kids worked hard on the pictures they drew and the things they collected to make sure the Soldiers had pillows and blanket and food to eat. It was awesome to hear from Brian explaining to the kids what he did as a Soldier. He mailed them picture to put on the bulletin board so they could see who they were writing to.
I have good memories of helping the medic unit, thanks to Brian. I remember putting the pillows in a very small box. We squished them by sitting on the pillows and taping the box shut so they wouldn’t pop out. I wrote to Brian telling him to be careful when he received them. He laugh with me when he emailed me back saying it was funny seeing the pillows fly thru the air when he opened that small box.
I know Brian changed our lives that year. He helped us feel important in our work to support Dustoff when he was helping our wounded Soldiers. We lost touch over the years, but he has always been a part of my life. He has a place on my wall with all of my Soldiers I have supported over the years.
My heart and prayers go out to his family. May God keep them safe and help them in this hour of need. Thank you for letting me share with you. I cry for the Soldier who is no longer with us and for his family who will miss him. Thank you Sue