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Forrest (Left) and Oaken Ewens


The War Comes Home

by Terry Rayburn Mitchell, '93

In September 2000, two young men walked into my Core 150 discussion group and sat down together. As I scanned the faces of the students and compared them to the photo roster in my hand, I was startled to see that the newcomers were identical twins. Their names were Forrest and Oaken Ewens.

After class, I asked Forrest and Oaken if they really wanted to be in the group together. "What if one of you does better than the other?" I asked. "Not a problem," one said.

"Really?" I asked. "Wouldn't it be easier if you were in different groups?" "Nah, we like being in the same classes," said the other. "It's never been a problem."

They were right. Though I'd hoped their abilities would be as identical as their faces, one did consistently turn in better papers than his twin (though I honestly can't remember which one it was). And neither cared. Neither lorded it over the other when I handed out graded papers or exams. They rarely spoke up in class, but both their comments and their papers reflected strong convictions, heartfelt beliefs, love of God, family and country. Their companionship was easy and supportive. "Wow," I thought; "these guys are tight." I had no idea.

Perhaps the bond expanded a bit when Oaken left for West Point and Forrest stayed on at Whitworth, helping to lead the track-and-field team to a conference championship and learning everything he could about history and his other passions. Other tests came as the young men pursued their military careers, first in ROTC and at the U.S. Military Academy and then in the U.S. Army; and maybe Oaken felt a pang when Forrest was the first to be married, to his beloved Megan.Julia Stronks

But nothing would break the bond; not even Forrest's death in Afghanistan's Pech River Valley on June 16. He was leading his men on a mission, distributing medical supplies, when a roadside bomb killed both him and his sergeant. At barely 25, Forrest was gone.

Just two weeks after his brother's death, Oaken wrote in Forrest's online memorial guestbook, "I prayed so hard that God would stop my heart the night I heard." Saying that he was "beyond tears now," Oaken wrote, "I miss you and I am so very proud."

Everyone who knew Forrest echoes that last sentiment. Though none of us can know the depth of his twin's anguish, nor the pain and pride of the rest of his close-knit family, all of us can join with another young man who wrote in Forrest's guestbook – a PFC who'd served under Forrest in Afghanistan. His final words were both an inspiration and a knife through the heart to those of us who went to the web looking for comfort and camaraderie in the dark days following June 16: "Climb to Glory, Sir!"

To read the Whitworth press release regarding Forrest Ewens' death, see www.whitworth.edu/whitworthtoday. To view the online guestbook mentioned in this sidebar, see www.legacy.com/GB/GuestbookView.aspx?PersonId=18194851.

NPR airs Memorial Day essay by Whitworth alum

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