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Chris Bowen

Friday, April 09, 2004
In the civilian world I am a project manager for architectural and
construction for the General Services Administration. I also am a Volunteer
Fire Fighter in Piedmont Oklahoma.
I have included a picture so you have a face with the e-mail.
I look forward to hearing from you.

IMGP1127_1 IMGP1094

Saturday, April 10, 2004
This morning was bad again. Rockets, mortars and wounded. Nothing too
close to me but close enough to rattle the place and scare the crap out of
some of the guys. Things are have quieted down this afternoon. Maybe
tomorrow will come without significant "thumps in the night". My guys and I are fine.
Tell the folks at Ladder 20 hi.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Thanks for working the shirts...the guys are all excited about them.
I will send some pics of my bunch...
The big group is all of the Civil Engineer Squadron.


The medium group is just the Force Protection Engineering Troops


and the small group is my Civil Engineer Techs.

All will get the shirts you all are sending.

(I sent a pic of me in my car)
Here's a pic of me and the rest of my convoy security team with our cool ride (taken a few weeks back).
I haven't seen the cover of Time. I thought the soldiers were on the cover
for the Person of the Year.

(I sent him these shots and some of the articles)

None of the articles compare to hearing from the troops themselves.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Was eating at the "chow hall" today and waiting in line with several hundred
other G.I's and heard a rocket impact....nothing unusual. We get them
everyday throughout the day here an there. I asked my buddy: Did you hear
that? He said yeah. We kept waiting in line since the sound was sort of
muffled...we thought it was reasonably distant. Anyway we went in and ate.
I had a grilled cheese and some pineapple slices.
Leaving the Chow Hall we went out the door on the other side of the trailer.
Guess what? There was an unexploded rocket roped off with some of our Civil Engineer Explosive Ordnance Disposal taking care of it. There were no injuries since it didn't explode! That is about the third time in the last week we have gotten lucky at the chow hall.
There was a breach at the perimeter over near it the other day and had some wounded before the enemy was suppressed. One explosion during the incident put some frag holes in the back of the trailer and small arms fire put some additional holes in it.
Yesterday one of the tents got hit (about 4 rows from mine) with a
rocket...mid day so no-one was in it. A few of the guys were outside it
when the rocket zipped between them. They were a bit rattled to say the
least. They said they could feel the heat. There stuff was messed up
inside of course.
Last night more incoming off in the distance.
On several occasions I have been sitting out at night smoking a cigar (in my
flack vest and Kevlar helmet, we wear them 24/7) and watched the rockets,
mortars and tracer fire shoot across the sky into the base.
Had a rocket bounce off the roof of the barber shop trailer the other day.
It didn't explode. One of our guys was inside and about shit his pants.

The bad guys get a lot of there munitions from the Russians and they are
duds. Good for us.
We did loose a chopper today and one guy was shot inside the Perimeter. Not good.
I lost two of my 4 uniforms since our cleaning contractor refuses to come
back for fear of death at the hands of terrorists outside the compound. I
guess I will have to start washing the two uniforms I have left by hand.
Well that is my week in review.
In general things are not too bad we have been rolling 7's...just hope the
luck lasts!

(I told him I worried when I heard about these attacks)
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Don't worry when we get attacked we normally send some bad SOB's to hunt them down.
Things in the last few days have quieted down some.

Now I worry that he's worried about me worrying... I wish I hadn't told him I was worried. He's taking the risks and doesn't need pressure from me.

From a letter of introduction to a fellow soldier about the Troop Shirts:
Saturday, April 17, 2004
... The Ladder 20 guys responded to the Trade Centers during 9/11 had incurred some losses. They share a sense of patriotism and an obvious connection to us over here.

As usual the troops say it better than I do. The "obvious connection".

Saturday, April 17, 2004
... about prejudice and preconceived notions. ... Unfortunately no one is exempt from the ignorance of others.

It's one thing to think philosophically about prejudice in the comfort of one's own home in America. It takes phenomenal character to do the same thing while sitting in the desert in a uniform you are washing by hand because the dry cleaner is afraid to be near you while mortars are dropping on your tent. Our troops are true believers, finest kind.
Sent: Saturday, April 17, 2004 5:48 PM
-----Original Message-----
From: Rachel
Subject: 72 Virgins
After his death, Osama bin Laden went to Heaven's gates. There he was met by George Washington, who slapped him across the face and yelled at him, "How dare you try to destroy the nation I helped conceive!"
Patrick Henry approached and punched Osama in the nose and shouted, "You
wanted to end our liberties but you failed."
James Madison entered, kicked Osama in the groin and said, "This is why I
allowed our government to provide for the common defense!"
Thomas Jefferson came in and proceeded to beat Osama many times with a long cane and said, "It was evil men like you that provided me the inspiration to pen the Declaration of Independence!"
These beatings and thrashings continued as John Randolph, James Monroe and 66 other early Americans came in and unleashed their anger on the Muslim terrorist leader. As Osama lay bleeding and writhing in unbearable pain an Angel appeared.
Bin Laden wept in pain and said to the Angel, "This is not what you promised me." The Angel replied, "I told you there would be 72 Virginians waiting for you in heaven. What did you think I said?"

Saturday, April 17, 2004
That one is tooo funny.
I saw some army troops around here that had shirts made up that said their
unit name and "72 virgin dating service" on them. I was dying laughing.

Sunday, April 18, 2004
You won't believe it, but I already received 2 envelopes with patches.  Thanks a lot!  I am going to save them until I get a larger amount (or all) together before distributing to the troops.
Did you get my e-mail to the Security Forces folks?  They spend a lot of time on patrol and convoys out in town and risk their lives all the time.  When you mentioned the additional shirts I thought they would really appreciate them.
The one photo I sent a while back was of myself and some of those guys during a convoy north of here.

Typical troops/typical firefighter, always worried about someone else. Yes, yes, I had reached the Security Forces. More on that coming...

Saturday, April 24, 2004
Shirts are still arriving!  I have received 30 (one box of 8 and 11 boxes of 2).  I am waiting to receive them all prior to giving them out.
I hope all is well with you.  Things are fine here.

Oh yeah, things are fine! A little thing like a t shirt making these folks a little happy in the desert. Well I can breathe a little bit now.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
More shirts came the other day (about 40 boxes). I have 190 now. Yeee haa! (I picked that up in Oklahoma)
Here are a few pics of our (unit name withheld) Firefighters.
Coincidentally, they were hanging around and helped deliver the mail that
day. Too cool!

Bowen Pics 001 Bowen Pics 002

The guy third from the left is our fire chief (about lost him to some
mortars a few weeks ago, but no harm done except for some dirty drawers, ha, ha, ha). The two on the right are not fire fighters but they were a big help in getting the mail.
I am copying our fire chief on this as he is real interested in this whole
effort. I have not handed the shirts out yet. I am waiting for the next
Commander's call when we can get everyone together. Don't worry. I'll take more pics.

He's so worried that I am worried! Sheesh! It is just beginning to dawn on me how many firefighters are also in the troops...

Monday, May 10, 2004
The author is right in that we are an all volunteer force, & as such the best the U.S. has fielded. We are motivated and proud to do what we can to stem what would have been inevitable world chaos resultant of the multitude of extremist groups with means of mass destruction at their disposal.

On a related yet slightly different note; It pains me when I hear people speak up for the troops in protest in an attempt to "look out for us".  Why people feel we need this is beyond me.  I guess they are trying to achieve their own agendas at our expense.  Myself and those I serve with volunteered to fight because we believe in the cause.  We believe in the greater good that will come from our sacrifices.  We do not need, nor desire to be used as leverage to push agendas.  The next time you hear or see someone speaking out on our behalf, please tell them those of us here say "thanks but no thanks".  By the very nature of our volunteerism, and their protest, those people contradict whom they claim to be trying to protect. 

I can assure you the majority of my brothers in arms share this view it is a topic of discussion every time some spouts there mouth off on the news.

... I volunteered to come here for the same reason that I think Chief Paul Ray counter the protester's efforts back home & to support the US in her "put my money where my mouth is".  It's funny Chief Ray is 50 years plus, with a bronze star and purple heart from Viet Nam and thought he needed to do more...amazing group I am part of, huh?

No one really knows that I volunteered to come here.  I can't explain why I did not want to talk about it at home.  I guess I didn't want people to think that I was doing something stupid ... something great ...something foolish...(take your pick depending on your perspective, none are appealing to me).  I told everyone I just was going and that it was my turn...that they needed engineers here, so I was going.  I don't think I kept it relatively quiet out of cowardice or anything; it was more that I don't give a shit whether I am thought of as stupid or some sort of just doesn't matter.  What people think is for the most part irrelevant.  There will always be differing opinions. 

I am here for what I believe in...what I think is important.  I am here because I think it matters that we take care of this before it takes care of us.  I am here because I believe we need to finish what we started.  I am here because I was in the Gulf war and remember how we encouraged the Kurds to stand up and fight Saddam and that we implied we would back them.  I am here because I remember that 180,000 Kurds were slaughtered because we left them to fight alone.  I am here because I cannot live with another cut and run policy.  I am here because I am a 34 year old volunteer that can't be "spun" as one of America's children sent to war.    

I thought long and hard about how my wife and kids would feel about me if I am killed here.  The odds are low compared to the numbers, but it happens.  It is something one must consider.  I carried 11 flag draped remains boxes just the other day...I know.  It would have been much easier for my wife and kids to understand if my tour here could have been blamed on Uncle Sam..."Uncle Sam made me go".  It has been quite another thing to come here knowing it is me that they would blame if I were hurt, or worse...killed.

I wrote the letters to them a long time ago apologizing just in case.  Truth be known, anyone that takes part in this must be prepared to die or they should not be here.

OK, I read this and I reread this and I will do everything in my power to make sure that everyone has a chance to hear what he is saying. If you have read this far in these pages you have read it before in the words of Pat Tillman and Brian Chontosh, if you keep reading you will see it again and again in the hundreds of letters that will follow. It is unbelieveable but true. I watched all the coverage of Eisenhower and Roosevelt and Churchill and listened to the accounts of survivors of D-Day. It's all the same voice, the same point that goes back to George Washington and the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Notice there isn't a single word of politics here. This is an American. This is every American. This is the truth. Pay no attention to the yapping faces on the TV who are trying to tell you what our troops are thinking. The people serving our country are just people like you and me and they can speak for themselves, if anyone is listening.

Every freedom we enjoy was paid for in blood and sacrifice of people who did it because they care about other people.

Date: Sat, 15 May 2004

Unsurprisingly, it was Chris in the desert who told me about Brian Chontosh on May 15. Today, July 4, as I write this page the New York Post finally mentioned Brian Chontosh in an editorial.

Maybe it's just too hard for modern day "journalists" so many of whom plagerize a story and "phone it in" from the safety of a protected position than to report on the actual miraculous happenings of our generation. Reporters no longer travel with the troops and fear more the backlash of wearing a US Flag on their lapel than actually facing the enemy. It is hard to wrap our minds around real bravery and sacrifice when most of the world is simply out for themselves. It's much harder to face reality than to wish the bad guys away with a remote control.

Monday, May 17, 2004
I gave out the shirts the other day. 
I gave them out after our Commander's call in one of the Iraqi buildings our group works out of.  I think it really went over well and made a huge impact on the morale of the troops.

I am including the notes from my speech so you have an idea of what I said.  Hope you don't mind me quoting some portions of your e-mails to the guys.

Speech outline was as follows:

-I gave the patches to our Explosive Ordnance Disposal troops as they have been kicking ass defusing and blowing up enemy IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices) for the last 3 months. 

PDRM0002 IMG_8054
Ladder 20's "Soho Trucking" patches and the Explosive Ordinance Disposal folks- always in gear ready to defuse bombs- accepting them

--Something for everyone ....but first a few words

II. OVERVIEW(I reviewed what I was going to speak about)
--What our sacrifice means to those back home
--A common thread (with those who support us)

--Majority of patriotism/support
(I discussed that despite what is on the news etc. Most Americans support our effort)
--who is Rachel & FDNY LADDER 20-
(I explained how much of a patriot you are and how the brave firefighters of Ladder 20 responded and/or sacrificed their lives during 9/11.  I explained also how you all are so supportive and that I wanted to share some of your words of support).
(I have never been called a "patriot" before, so this is what it means. It means supporting the people who are willing to sacrifice everything to help other people. There is probably no higher compliment in existence.)

-- QUOTE- WORDS OF ONE, THE THOUGHTS OF MANY (I read the following quotes excerpts)
"We have sent the very best against the very worst...Be very sure that everyone here is thinking about our warriors every second... It's one of the mind numbing aspects to me.  Our "troops" are just people like everyone else here, one day they are in Georgia and the military is their "day job"...and the next day they are in Iraq or Afghanistan in camouflage and Kevlar risking their lives and taking lives if necessary. And then I think about the people on Flight 93. I always think about those people.  They were the first warriors for America and the coalition, they had 5 minutes to assimilate the information and act upon it.  No training, no uniforms, no warning, one minute they were on a plane headed to business or vacation on a sunny day before the world changed and the next minute they became warriors, they took action and saved God only knows how many lives.
  Scratch the surface of any freedom-loving person and we are all warriors.  We are all the same.  So naturally we feel very strongly towards you there every moment.  You are us and we are you.  As much as I could possibly help you, I will.  Just like you are doing for me- well not nearly as much as you are doing for me, but the best I can do... Some of us will always be stuck in the moment of 9/11, where all that counted what was we could do to help, and the frustration of not being able to do more... It doesn't matter if Iraq was involved in 9/11 or not, you guys and gals are keeping the terrorists so busy in Iraq that they have less time and resources to make trouble over here... You and the troops are doing more than anyone, the rest of us are just doing what we can". 

(I read this slow and deliberate.  Rachel, you could have heard a pin drop in the room of over 180 people.  All eyes were on me...every ear listening...listening to every word).
I am surprised they didn't already know all this. I think about those people on flight 93 all the time. Now we also know that ALL the people on ALL the planes tried to stop the terrorists. It took me 3 whole days to face that we were under attack by terrorists. It took those people on the planes only a few minutes. Some people can not get those people on the planes out of their minds, they can't get the 343 New York firefighters and the NYPD and the Port Authority and all the other first responders - civilians- anyone who ran in to help on 9-11 off their minds and they have to do something about it. Those people are serving in the military and supporting the troops. Those are the people who make life worth living, those are the people worth knowing.

--What she says is true we are...
--We represent America and those that physically or have the courage to fight
--taking the fight to the enemy
(I explained that what you say in your e-mails are true.  That we represent all Americans; that we provide what many cannot etc. and that we share a strong bond with you all back home.  Additionally, that we are taking the fight to the enemy and not waiting, hoping that the problem will just go away).

Ladder 20 in this respect is representing all of the FDNY. We choose to make Ladder 20 and the FDNY the focus of this support effort because so much of the world saw these firefighters and identified with them on 9-11. The celebrity none of the FDNY wanted we are now using to counter the negative propaganda. A typical creative response to destruction. When the troops see celebrities or groups of people protesting against policy or disparaging the troops, they can see here the faces of the people who support them. This is a grassroots effort. All of the FDNY, all of the NYPD, all of the people in uniforms all over the country and all over the world, and all of the civilians, even those who protest the war support the TROOPS. We're a little sick and tired of that point being ignored so we are doing what we can to get our message through.

"Everything I am doing pales in comparison to everything you are doing, and everything you are doing makes it possible for me to be doing what I do... It is my great honor to send you these T-shirts as a teeny tiny fraction of the love and support you have from everyone - everywhere who is thinking about you and praying for your safety and success".
(I used this quote to emphasize the respect that we have from you all back home...that our sacrifices and effort really means something to the people to most Americans and in particular you and the Ladder 20 folks).
Damn right.

--wear them with pride, know we are supported
(I concluded by holding up a shirt and informing everyone that I will and them out to everyone.  I suggested that whenever we wear the shirt we should be reminded of what we have done here in Iraq and how proud we should be to have the respect, encouragement and support of such a special bunch of people back home).

FDNY Shirts

I dont think any of us back home understood how much what we think matters to the troops. They seem so strong in their uniforms, it's easy to forget that they are there for us, by us, of us and we matter to them.

I just hope they know how much we love and care for them and support them.

As I handed out the shirts I shook every hand and thanked them for their hard work and sacrifice on behalf of you and Ladder 20.  The guys (and gals) were so touched it was unbelievable.  I am not the best speaker but given the topic and circumstances it was a huge success.  I am quite sure everyone will be refocused for the duration of our tour here and will never forget your most kind gesture of support.

Thanks again Rachel.  You made a huge impact through your wonderful effort. The reaffirmation that what we are doing is right and that it is supported is critical to the morale of our warriors who often search to make sense of all of this.

Incidentally, My Birthday was the 16th.  No big celebration though as you can imagine.
On 5/17/04 11:46 AM, "Bowen Christopher wrote:
I gave them out after our Commander's call in one of the Iraqi buildings our group works out of. "


What, you mean that gilded lecterns aren't standard military issue?
Monday, May 17, 2004 10:39 PM
The furniture from some of the buildings is too funny.  Did I tell you we have Persian carpets in out tents (wonder where they came from).

We are getting mail still some plans changed.  I am nearing the end of my tour now though.
I guess we should probably blur out the name/unit info on the sign.  Someone could always track the unit to the location and get an idea of our size.  That in turn can give clues about what level of work etc. we are doing.

Friday, May 28, 2004 7:22 AM
Sorry for not writing much but I am trying to turn over
responsibilities to my relief here. I will not be able to write anymore
after tomorrow. I mailed you a package last week. I hope you like the
stuff. Thanks again for all your support while I was here and always know
how much your efforts meant to my squadron and I.
Please e-mail me in about a month.
Take care!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004 10:02 AM
I am back in the states and am trying to readjust. I took about two and a
half weeks off and am now back at work. It's weird to shift gears back to
normal life again.
Thought you might be interested...went on a house fire call last night. We
had a bad storm and a lightning strike started a fire in the attic. Save
the house with only water damage from the hoses and some minor structural
damage in the attic.
How is everything going? Did you receive the package I sent?

And again, so typical. He's already back in the saddle risking his life helping other people. This is what we have in our military, our neighbors. People who care about each other, contribute their skills and sacrifice their lives for the liberties they believe in. I am posting this page today before announcing it and heading out to celebrate my freedom on Independence Day. I haven't asked Chris yet if he minds me sharing these letters, man, I hope he doesn't mind. In the coming days I will share the rest of the letters, as every member of this unit that recieved the shirts wrote to me and more messages of support from FDNY firefighters and other fine folk from every walk of life. I think it is important that people get to hear what the troops think in their own words and pictures, more than a few troops singled out for their aberrant "newsworthyness".

Yes, I got their package, gifts too beautiful for my eyes, I can not begin to express how much I cherish anything sent by the troops and this- well this was just too much to even dream of. I will talk about them later but first I want to make sure that no more troops try to send me any thing! OK troops? And for those troops who have been asking if they can send me or the FDNY t shirts we have one answer: We will only accept your gifts in person when you come to New York and deliver it. OK?

We have found a couple more units in Iraq, we're always looking for more and hope to find some in Afghanistan and we are collecting more shirts donated from New York firehouses, there are lots more firehouse stories to share too. As long as the troops are there for us, we are there for them.

More from this unit- which is now HOME YAY YAY YAY, more from the FDNY and more from the new groups of troops serving us in the Gulf- and whereever else- and more from regular folks who want to show their love and support for our troops (and the Italians and the British and the Polish and all the coalition troops) is coming. Please check back on to see what's cookin. FDNY- please spread the word to collect more shirts, I know there's only 8000 FDNY firefighters and there are more than 180,000 troops, but hey, it's a challenge ;)

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