Saying Goodbye

I’ve tried over the past 24 hours to write something…anything. For once, writing isn’t coming as easily to me.

I don’t have a biological brother. I have some great brothers through my marriage that I love dearly. My sister brought me another brother after her recent marriage – another good guy (he better be if he doesn’t want to deal me!). 😉

The Army brought me brothers that I’ve also come to know and love as well. And when I say they are my brothers, I mean it in the most literal, non-familiar term possible. William Shakespeare coined the apt phrase of this relationship as a “band of brothers.” Unlike brothers in traditional families, the band of brothers enjoys a bond unlike any other on earth. We rely on each other for our protection, our health, our welfare, and our sanity. They are as much a part of our family as any real siblings and in some ways moreso.

Yesterday, I lost a brother, Army Staff Sergeant Brian Cowdrey. I met Brian a few years ago through mutual adversity and we became close. We shared emails and Facebook messages that always brought a smile to the other’s face. We were both excited that we were deploying around the same time to Afghanistan to finally “meet” in person. We’ve never been face to face, but grew close through our correspondence. I got to know his great wife, Jill, as a sister and a I enjoyed reading about his boys. He was a good father and husband and loved them so much. We shared that bond as well – the love of our families!

This past May, we began planning on how to link up once he got here. I arrived in theater a few weeks before he did, but we were going to make it happen when he arrived. I told him to call or email me when he knew his schedule coming through here. After one particularly long, grueling day of coordination, movement, and support I came back to my computer to find a note from Brian that he was on ground. He would only be here for a few hours before pushing out and wanted to link. I got the message about two and a half hours after he had already left.

I didn’t think much of it at the time because a year is a LONG deployment and surely it can’t be hard to run into him again. Afghanistan isn’t exactly a large country. It never happened.

Brian hit the ground running. Within a week, he was in his MEDVAC chopper bringing back 3 WIA and 1 KIA from an IED. He is the angel in the sky that every Soldier is happy to see. He transported all sorts of casualties, from heat casualties to dead and wounded from IEDs and direct fire engagements. We spoke often after these missions and I couldn’t tell you how proud I was to call him a friend. I joked with him about living vicariously through him since I was pretty much nailed to my FOB. He told me if I could get out there, he’d take me on some missions.

In 2010, the AP accompanied Brian and his crew on a rescue mission while he was in Afghanistan last time.

All photos courtesy of AP.

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