When I heard the announcement of Brandon's death, I thought, "No, this has to be wrong. This couldn't be the same Brandon Rowe that I knew." And while I thought perhaps someone had made a horrible mistake, the news didn't change. I checked online and he was not listed as one of the "fallen heroes". So maybe there was still hope that it was an awful mistake. But as the day wore on, the story didn't change and more news stations were reporting on his death.
Operation Iraqi Freedom is no longer just another war. It is personal. While I have always had compassion and sympathy for those who lost family and friends to this conflict, I never imagined the pain and sense of loss until it happened to someone I knew. Logic tells us that there are always casualties of war, but logic doesn't register when it hits home.
Brandon wanted to join the service ever since a young boy and no one could change his mind. He knew and accepted the risks. He loved what he was doing. Brandon believed the people in Iraq deserved to be treated humanely and Saddam Hussein needed to be replaced as their leader. He was proud to be a part of the fight in their freedom from oppression. This knowledge is a little consolation, yet, there must be more, when a good, courageous young man dies defending his country. How can we honor Brandon Rowe and his sacrifice?
I remember Brandon as a toddler, coming with his family to church in a dark pin-striped suit. He was adorable. He always had a smile. Wendy and I had children the same age so our families knew each other. After we moved, we lost touch with Brandon and his family for many years. [I had heard that Wendy and Milt divorced and a few years later she married Rick Borowski and moved to Roscoe.] Wendy was a busy person and worked many hours, I didn't see her much. However, I still saw Brandon's Grandmother, Gwen Scheidegger every Sunday at church.
Gwen, a beautiful, dynamic lady, had six children to whom she was very devoted. She often talked about her children and grandchildren. When she found that Brandon had become friends with my daughter, Jolene, she would make it a point to tell me about him. You could hear the adoration in her voice as she told me of his kind heart and soft-spoken ways. There was a definite bond between them. So much so, that after joining the service and being home on leave, he started attending church once again with his grandmother. He was allowed to come home on leave to attend his grandmother's funeral in November of 2001. It was obvious that he was becoming more serious in his life.
Brandon remembered his grandmother fondly and before he left for Iraq, he requested that if anything should happen to him, he desired to be buried beside her.
Even though losing Brandon was a great shock to his family, they take great comfort in the knowledge that he is with his grandmother Gwen and others of his family who have gone before him. They have a strong foundation of the gospel that teaches them that families can be together forever. It is this belief that will sustain and comfort them in this time of grief.
Many of Brandon's friends took the news very hard. It will take them a long time to get over the pain of losing their friend. Eventually, fond memories will replace the emptiness that now fills their hearts as they understand that their friend is not lost to them but because he played such an important role in their lives will always remain with them. And some day they too will see their dear friend again.
We attended all the arrangements made for Brandon; a private viewing on Friday night, the community viewing and memorial service was Saturday and the private burial service for family and friends held on Sunday morning. It still seems hard for many of us to believe. His family is very close and will lean upon each other. We will all make it through this and hopefully will make him proud of how we draw together.
The nation considers Brandon a hero because of the cause he had undertaken and the way he died. In the eyes of his friends and family, Brandon was already a hero, for the man he was and the life he led. Brandon's death was not senseless, nor will his sacrfice ever be forgotten.
Brandon Jacob Rowe - thank you for touching so many hearts and being such a good friend - we love you and we will miss you. God be with you til we meet again.
CEO of ComPortOne
Originally written April 2003
Articles by Connie Eccles, CPO Editor
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