June 20, 2006
Whitworth Honors Alum Killed in Afghanistan
A flag-lowering ceremony and memorial service were held in Whitworth's Centennial Plaza on Tuesday, June 20, to honor U.S. Army First Lt. Forrest P. Ewens, '04. Ewens was killed in action on Friday, June 16, while leading his soldiers on a combat mission in Afghanistan's Pech River Valley.
Ewens, who as a student participated in the ROTC's Bulldog Battalion, a combined Whitworth/Gonzaga University training unit for future military officers, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. He and his wife, First Lt. Megan Jagelski Ewens (Gonzaga, '03), were stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., the base from which he was deployed to Afghanistan.
Ewens and his twin brother, Oaken, who also attended Whitworth and graduated last month from the U.S. Military Academy, in West Point, N.Y., grew up in Addy, Wash., and graduated from Chewelah's Jenkins High School in 2000. Forrest Ewens, a history major, was captain of Whitworth's track team in 2004, and the remarks at his memorial service included remembrances by Professor of History Dale Soden and by Head Track & Field Coach Toby Schwarz, whose remarks were read by Dean of the Chapel Terry McGonigal.
"This news is tragic and shocking," wrote Schwarz. "It brings home the reality of war and the reality of death." After recounting some of Ewens' contributions to the track team and to the college, Schwarz wrote, "I had an opportunity to talk with Forrest a few months ago, just two days before he was deployed to Afghanistan. He wanted to touch base 'one last time' before he left. We talked for a long time about his life and the difficult time ahead of him as he had to leave his wife behind and go to a very dangerous place, to do very dangerous work leading other young men into harm's way for a greater good. Forrest repeatedly commented on how his time with the [track] team helped prepare him for what he was about to face. . . . He loved Whitworth and he loved the team."
Schwarz wrote of Ewens' confidence that "no matter what happened, God was in control." Expressing his own belief that "life is just one big practice" for what's to come, Schwarz concluded his message with this: "When our work is done and practice is over, God calls us home. We hit the showers, put on some warm, clean clothes, and sit down for a meal. Forrest is having a great meal right now, with some great company, and I praise God for that."
Lt. Col. Alan D. Westfield, assistant professor in Gonzaga's Department of Military Science, and Edward D. Kelly, the director of facilities services at Whitworth and a 30-year veteran officer of the U.S. Navy, also participated in the flag-lowering ceremony.
Another service for Ewens took place at Gig Harbor's Peninsula Christian Fellowship on Thursday, June 22. On Wednesday, July 5, the 10th Mountain Division will hold a memorial service at Fort Drum, N.Y., to honor Ewens and a fellow fallen member of the division, Sgt. Durgin. A wake will be held for Ewens at Arlington National Cemetery on July 6 from 6-8 p.m.; he will be buried at Arlington on July 7 at 1 p.m.
Ewens' widow has established an ROTC scholarship fund to honor her husband's memory and his dedication to his country. In lieu of flowers, she asks that contributions be sent to this scholarship fund to assist Gonzaga and Whitworth students. Contributions should be sent to the Forrest Ewens Scholarship Fund, c/o Sheri Fitzthum, Gonzaga University, 502 E. Boone Ave., Spokane, WA 99258-0098.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, (509) 777-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.