Gig Harbor, WA - The mood was celebratory at the annual Armed Forces Day parade: the school bands, the old-timers with pins in their hats, the Vietnam vets on motorcycles filing past cheering families waving American flags.
And then Michael Ewens appeared – the father of one fallen soldier and of three more who serve in their brother’s honor. The mood turned somber and respectful. Parents hushed their children. Adults applauded and nodded.
Ewens, a Gig Harbor resident, marched near the front of a group holding large banners in the May 16 parade in downtown Bremerton. On his banner was a photo of a soldier wearing body armor and the patch of the 10th Mountain Division.
The photo is of Forrest Ewens, Michael’s son who was killed in Afghanistan on June 16, 2006.
LT Forrest Ewens was serving with the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division when he was killed in the Pech River Valley of eastern Afghanistan. He and his twin brother LT Oaken Ewens both entered ROTC in 2001, which is also where Forrest met his future wife, LT Megan Ewens.
Oaken later transferred to West Point and deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain last December.
SSG Elisha Ewens joined the Washington National Guard in 2002 and served in Iraq in 2004. In 2006 he went Active Duty and deployed to Afghanistan in early 2007 also with the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain. His second OEF tour with the 10th Mountain began in January of this year.
SPC Stephen Ewens enlisted in the Army after Forrest's death and will deploy to Afghanistan with 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis this summer.
For the remaining Ewens brothers, Oaken, Elisha and Stephen, serving in Afghanistan has become a way to honor their brother’s memory. The three soon will be within 150 miles of each other.
“I feel that this is now our family’s war,” said Stephen, a specialist with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “All four of us will finally be back together sharing the same fight, walking on the same dusty ground.”