Md. Guardsman Dies After Attack in Jan.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Collin J. Bowen, 38, was injured when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Jan. 2. He died Friday in Texas. He had lived in Maryland, mostly near Baltimore, for 20 years.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Collin J. Bowen, 38, was injured when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Jan. 2. He died Friday in Texas. He had lived in Maryland, mostly near Baltimore, for 20 years. (Family Photo)
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By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Maryland Army National Guard soldier died at a Texas military hospital Friday, two months after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Collin J. Bowen, 38, died at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he had undergone 13 surgeries for severe burns and other injuries, family members said. He was injured Jan. 2, when his vehicle was hit in a convoy of U.S. and Afghan military vehicles returning to their base in the Khost province, near Pakistan, according to news reports.

Bowen had lived in Maryland, mostly in the Baltimore area, for 20 years. He was serving in the National Guard when he was sent, at his request, to Afghanistan in January 2007, family members said. He was scheduled to return home to Nottingham, just north of Baltimore, two weeks after his vehicle was hit. A U.S. soldier and an Afghan interpreter were killed in the attack, and another U.S. soldier who was injured died about a week later, news reports said.

"He finally got his chance" to see combat, Justin Bowen said of his brother. "He was very excited about that."

Collin Bowen was married to Ursula Bowen, 33, whom he had met in 2002 when she taught him Spanish at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, his brothers said. Their daughter, Gabriela, is 3, and he had two daughters from a previous marriage, Katelyn, 10, and Erin, 13.

Bowen, the eldest in a family of three boys from Marion, Ind., joined the Army when he was 18, his brothers said. He stayed in Maryland after being stationed at Fort Meade. He served eight years before leaving to become a computer programmer but later served six years in the National Guard, his family said.

His work in Afghanistan included training members of the Afghan army, said his brother Shelby Bowen of Carmel, Ind. He had finished his last mission and was preparing to return home when he volunteered to go on another mission about Christmas. He was returning from that mission and was six miles from his base when the convoy was hit, said his mother, Carolyn Bowen.

Family members said Bowen passed up a chance to retire from the National Guard because he wanted to see combat as an infantryman. Afghanistan was his first combat mission, they said.

"He felt like it was his calling to train other soldiers," Shelby Bowen said. "He really believed in what the U.S. was doing there, and he really enjoyed it."

Justin Bowen of Indianapolis said his brother often asked friends and family to send him candy, pencils and paper for Afghan children.

"As a father of three, it was very important to him to be an ambassador to the children," Justin Bowen said.

The injured Bowen, with his eyes sewn shut and a breathing tube down his throat, wasn't able to speak after the attack, his family said. However, on good days, Shelby Bowen said, he would shrug his shoulders or wiggle his toes with a "yes" or "no" to their questions.

He took a turn for the worse two weeks ago, when he developed pneumonia and other infections, his family said.

He is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


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