On June 16, 2006, First Lieutenant Forrest P. Ewens, ’04, was leading the Army’s 10th Mountain Division on a mission, distributing medical supplies in Afghanistan’s Pech River Valley, when he and his sergeant were killed by an improvised explosive device. Ewens was just 25 years old.
Days later, Whitworth held a flag-lowering ceremony and memorial service in Centennial Plaza outside Cowles Memorial Auditorium. The moving event honored the memory of a young man who had been an integral part of the campus community a few short years earlier.
Ewens and his identical twin, Oaken, who also attended Whitworth and who graduated in 2006 from the U.S. Military Academy, in West Point, N.Y., grew up in Addy, Wash. At Whitworth, Forrest majored in history and ran track with a tightly knit group of runners. He captained the team during his senior year, helping to lead Whitworth to a conference championship.
He graduated from Whitworth in 2004, having participated in the ROTC’s Bulldog Battalion, a combined Whitworth/Gonzaga University training unit for future military officers, and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment and 3rd Brigade Combat Team before his last assignment to 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.
After Ewens’ death, Whitworth’s head track & field coach, Toby Schwarz, recalled a conversation he had with the young man months before Ewens was deployed to Afghanistan. “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,” Schwarz said. “Forrest repeatedly commented on how his time with the team helped prepare him for what he was about to face.”
Ewens’ widow established an ROTC scholarship fund to honor her husband’s memory and his dedication to his country.