GIG HARBOR, WA, USA U.S. Army 1LT, COMPANY C, 1ST BATTALION, 32D INFANTRY, (TF SPARTAN) FORT DRUM, NY PECH RIVER VALLEY, AFGHANISTAN 06/16/2006
As both an Army officer and an Army wife, First Lieutenant Megan Ewens understood the dangers her husband, Forrest, faced when he shipped out for Afghanistan in March. If anything should happen to her husband, she told a Colonel at Fort Drum, New York, she didn’t want to hear it from a stranger.
On June 16, while Megan visited family and friends in Seattle, the colonel boarded a plane and flew here.
At 4 the next morning, he told her that while leading soldiers on a combat mission in the Pesh River Valley, a roadside bomb had taken the life of two soldiers, one of them her husband, First Lieutenant Forrest P. Ewens, 25.
“This was the love of her life. They were so well-matched, such a good team,” the slain soldier’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Arebalos-Jagelski, a music teacher from the Eastern Washington town of Dayton, said Friday as she recalled how the Army notified her daughter.
“We couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law,” Arebalos-Jagelski said. “My husband, Tom, said, ‘If I had to handpick a man for my daughter, he’d be right there at the top.’ “
Forrest Ewens, a 2000 graduate of Jenkins High School in Chewelah and a 2004 graduate of Whitworth College, was the son of Michael and Carol Ewens of Gig Harbor. His twin brother, Oaken, just graduated from West Point. Another brother, Eli, is a member of the National Guard in Spokane.
Ewens and his wife both served with the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum. Megan Ewens, who is in military intelligence, expected to be going to Afghanistan in the same battalion with her husband. A shoulder injury that required surgery, however, kept her home, Arebalos-Jagelski said.
Megan Ewens spent last week with her husband’s family. Ewens’ parents could not be reached for comment.
“She’s very professional, so it’s hard to see on the outside what she is going through, but I know it is tearing her apart inside,” Arebalos-Jagelski said. It’s also difficult to see Ewens’ twin, Oaken, in pain. “They were inseparable since birth. It was obvious they were best friends as well as brothers.”
Arebalos-Jagelski said her daughter and Ewens met in the Whitworth College/Gonzaga University ROTC program. Megan, who graduated from Gonzaga in 2003 with a degree in political science, was Forrest’s Bulldog Battalion commander.
Her parents met Ewens close to New Year’s Day 2004. He planned to propose to their daughter then and let everyone in the family except her in on the secret. “They didn’t have a lot of money at that time,” Arebalos-Jagelski said. “So Tom took them out to try to get a temporary engagement ring.”
He fit in immediately. “He won my heart over,” Arebalos-Jagelski says, after writing a funny song about the family cat, Mr. Gray, that she still uses in her music classes.
Ewens would sit transfixed listening to stories from her father, a Korean War veteran who was wounded. Ewens himself spoke eloquently about history. “I thought he would make a great history teacher one day,” Arebalos-Jagelski said.
Arebalos-Jagelski said he seemed to lead with a calm, knowing presence. “He was very diplomatic. He could make peace in any situation,” which gave insight into his care for his troops.
Forrest Ewens is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.