The Real Memorial Day: Remembering A Hero
by Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon - May 30, 2012 (Video
Afghanistan (5/28/2012) – There wasn't a barbecue with friends. No
kids splashed in a pool or lined up for a roller coaster on the
official first day of the “summer fun” season. No one got the day
off. Memorial day wasn't anything except a day to gather and
remember, mark a patch of concrete with a small monument, and lament
losing a friend.
“Sometimes, I think about how many lives
Brian affected,” said U.S. Army Capt. Augustine Castronovo, the
MEDEVAC platoon leader on Forward Operating Base Fenty, near
On Oct. 13, 2011, Castronovo's
MEDEVAC unit responded to an urgent call from a small observation
post in Kunar province, near the Pakistan border. The post had been
under heavy enemy fire, and three coalition soldiers were critically
wounded, requiring evacuation.
Among the medics on board was
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Brian” Cowdrey, from Atwater, Ohio.
Cowdrey was seasoned combat veteran on his fourth deployment, known
for his “hard right over easy wrong” attitude.
As crews raced to rescue the wounded, weather deteriorated as the
number of patients increased. The Task Force Talon, 82nd Combat
Aviation Brigade MEDEVAC crews made the decision to continue on,
despite dangerous, rugged terrain and limited visibility. Rain
showers soaked the valley they traveled.
“U.S. Soldiers fought side-by-side with their Afghan counterparts.
What happened at OP Shal wasn't about politics, foreign policy, or
ethnicity,” said Castronovo, of Woodland Hills, Calif. “These
Soldiers were fighting for each other's lives.”
jumped from the helicopter as soon as the pilot got two of three
wheels on the ground, and ran to find the wounded. The helicopter
delicately balanced on the side of the mountain, the whirling blades
of the main rotor just a few feet from the ground.
“When it came to the wounded, it wasn't about the uniform or the
country of origin- for Brian, it was about helping another human
being,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Deane Bostick, a flight medic who
was with Cowdrey that night.
Cowdrey loaded the two most
critically-wounded patients onto the Black Hawk, then asked for
permission to go back and get more.
“Brian didn't have to go
back,” said Castronovo, “but leaving a wounded Soldier behind never
crossed his mind.”
“I was with Brian the night he left us,”
said Bostick. “The last thing I said to him was ‘be safe,' and with
a crooked smile he responded with the same, and then he was all
On his way back with yet another patient, Cowdrey
was struck by one of the low rotor blades, killing him instantly.
“A ground medic who witnessed the events told me ‘as Brian moved
to the aircraft with the third patient it appeared he pushed the
patient to safety before being mortally wounded,'” said Bostick. “I
would like to think that was the case; that his last act in life was
to ensure the safety of another. That is who he was.”
gave his life while in the service of others,” said Castronovo to a
crowd of commanders, MEDEVAC crew members and pilots collected in
front of a sheet-draped memorial just off the main runway on Fenty.
“He died doing what he loved most and I know in my heart that he
wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Brian laid down his life out
of love for his brothers.”
To honor Cowdrey's life and
sacrifices, the MEDEVAC crews serving with Task Force Saber in
Jalalabad dedicated FOB Fenty's V.I.P. landing pad to Cowdrey, and
marked the site with a memorial- a simple marble plaque atop a
pedestal of concrete.
May 28, 2012 - U.S. Army Capt. Augustine Castronovo, of Woodland Hills, Calif., and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Deane Bostick stand watch while 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Troops salute a memorial dedicated to U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert "Brian" Cowdrey. Cowdrey died Oct. 13, 2011 while rescuing wounded servicemembers from a small combat outpost near the Pakistan Border. MEDEVAC troops on Forward Operating Base Fenty had the helicopter landing pad in the V.I.P. arrival area re-named "Cowdrey
Ramp," and erected a small monument to honor his life on Memorial
Day. Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon
“I will never forget you, nor will anyone else who was
fortunate enough to have known you,” said Bostick. “I am
humbled to have known this man and think it only appropriate
that here at Jalalabad Airfield the V.I.P. pad be named in
his honor, forever to be known as ‘Cowdrey Pad.'”
“Sometimes, I think about how many lives Brian affected,”
said Castronovo. “I try to count how many mothers, fathers,
sisters, and brothers can embrace their loved ones because
of Brian's actions? How many family trees will continue to
grow because Brian saved lives? Brian's impact is
Cowdrey was a 1990 graduate of La
Junta High School in La Junta, Colo., and joined the Army in
June 2003 and completed initial training at Fort Sill,
Okla., and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He served at Fort Polk,
LA., before being assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C.
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pahon
through DVIDS Copyright 2012