Why I Serve: Soldier Feels He's Contributing to Terror War
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Feb. 24, 2005 Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Bowe and his wife, Sgt. Brandy Bowe, spent their "honeymoon" on a Caribbean island. There was plenty of sun and stunning views of crystal-clear, blue-tinted waters.
Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Bowe shows off photos of his family
mounted on the toolbox at his desk in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Kathleen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But this couple didn't visit Jamaica or the Bahamas. In fact, the only home the two Army Reservists have shared so far in their short marriage has been in Cuba at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.
Kevin, who is responsible for the tools in his unit's motor pool, and Brandy, a military police officer, were married in December 2003, while she was home on leave from her unit's deployment here. Kevin soon found out his unit, the 783rd Military Police Battalion from Inkster, Mich., would soon replace his wife's unit, the 384th MP Battalion from Fort Wayne, Ind.
She volunteered to spend an extra six months here, and the two were allowed to reside together for the final four months of that period before she redeployed. Though they've spent only six of the 14 months they've been married together, neither is upset, Kevin said.
"We understood all of this prior to even getting married," he said. He explained that he did an active-duty stint before joining the Reserves and Brandy's father is a retired soldier, so both already were familiar with the trials of military life.
Instead of resenting the time he's been separated from his bride, Kevin -- an unbelievably upbeat individual with an infectious smile -- is grateful for the time they've been able to spend together. "My chain of command has been very supportive," he said, adding that he and his wife work together as a team to solve problems.
In fact, Kevin comes up with a positive side to just about every aspect of his life.
At home in Michigan, he is a caseworker for veterans' issues on the staff of Sen. Carl Levin. He said his deployment here has given him a clearer view of how American policies affect people at the ground level. "I'm understanding more what goes on in Capitol Hill -- at the ground level as a soldier, compared to being in Washington, D.C., and just looking at the paperwork and hearing politicians argue about issues," he said.
Kevin said he strongly believes he's making a contribution to the war on terrorism in his role here at Guantanamo Bay. That's very important to him for an intensely personal reason: Kevin lost a dear friend in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. "I've been affected by terrorism," he said, referring to his friend who died and to his roots in New York. "I like what I'm doing, which is providing support for Operation Enduring Freedom here. The overall mission here is dealing with terrorism."
He also said he believes his 11-year-old daughter, Kara, understands the importance of the work her dad does. "She understands after 9/11 about how important this is for overall national security," he said. Bowe also has a 3- year-old son, Ryan.
He's upbeat about the future too. Bowe's unit redeploys to Michigan in May, but he's requested to extend here for an additional year. Brandy has been working to secure a job with a civilian contractor on the island, and the couple hopes she will rejoin him here soon.
In the longer term, Kevin said he hopes someday to work with the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Administration. He said it's important that he remain in public service. "I have a history in my family (of working in public service)," he said. "So I think it's sort of a learned behavior -- giving back to society, because I've really been fortunate."
Like many people, Kevin Bowe has lived through hard times and misfortune -- the death of his friend on 9/11 and shortly thereafter the death of his beloved stepmother took a hard toll -- he just prefers always to look for the positive and not dwell on the negative. "Some people have sad stores; I have sad stories. But I'm triumphing over them," he said. "Nothing's a handout in life. It's all about what you make in it."
He also has a long list of people he's grateful to, starting with his parents. "Honestly, any success that I have, I attribute it to my parents who set the foundation in me," Kevin said.
Second on his list are "people that instilled military values in me when I first came in." He said he owes much of his success to the senior soldiers who showed him the ropes as a young troop.
And more than anyone else, Kevin said he is grateful to his wife, particularly for volunteering to extend at Guantanamo Bay to spend time with him. "This isn't an easy duty station for most people," he said. "So I'm just fortunate that I have a wife that's in the military and also supportive and made the sacrifices for her country and also for me."
During an interview, Kevin continually brought the conversation back to Brandy -- and glowed each time he mentioned her name. "Those who know her, they will tell you she is a superstar, a real winner," he said. "And that's why, fortunately, God has brought us together."
Speaking briefly about his faith, Kevin said he's not a very spiritual person. "But I believe God puts people together to help them out," he added.