Sailors laud their fallen comrade

The same pool of adjectives invariably surface when describing the mettle of a fallen sailor. Although evocative, it is the uncontrollable tears from men trained to disarm bombs that speak clearly to the true character of the deceased.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Bewley was killed Nov. 5 in Iraq, the sixth member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 to be called on to make the ultimate sacrifice.

A memorial held Tuesday at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station rendered otherwise articulate sailors almost speechless. The 27-year-old Arkansas native led by example, his dedication and genuine enthusiasm leaving no room for posturing. EODMU-11 became his second family.

“This role was perfectly suited for him,” said Cmdr. Joseph DiGuardo, Commanding Officer, EODMU-11. “Even as he came to understand the full magnitude of his new career and the enormity of the responsibility, he never faltered.”

The consummate rugged outdoorsman with minimalist bent, Bewley was a MacGyver-esque EOD technician.

“He sought out ways to do his job better with less, knowing that sometimes when performing dangerous tasks in a barren desert some 3,000 miles away, he would need to rely on his wits and ingenuity to survive,” DiGuardo said.

Bewley performed his duties flawlessly on Nov. 5. He was equipped with technology and refined skills. DiGuardo said on that day the “enemy got a vote” and “evil triumphed over good.” The sailor’s memory, like the memory of his fallen brothers, serves to reinforce the nation’s resolve, regardless of one’s view of the geographically distant conflict.

“The war in which our nation is embroiled is not over,” the commander said. “The example Kevin has set is not lost. He was our brother, A member of the sacred fellowship sworn to defend our Constitution. And within that fellowship he was a hero, one of the nation’s greatest sons. His courage and character have branded the hearts of each and every one of us.”

Bewley’s military performance gained him respect among his peers. But it was his personality and vitality that will make “KB” live on in their minds and hearts. EOD Master Chief Dale Rock read letters sent by other team members specifically for the memorial. Rock’s sometimes wavering voice more than adequately expressed the emotion wrought by the EOD members’ words.

“In all my years in the Navy, I’ve never met a man who exuded such positive energy,” one sailor wrote. “He didn’t bother with negativity. He didn’t have any room for it . . . Simply put, KB was the man.”

“He was a beacon of sanity in an insane world,” another EOD team member wrote. “No one will ever know how many lives he saved.”

“He never criticized,” Rock read from a letter. “He was never anyone’s judge.”

The master chief himself described Bewley as a quiet man who commanded listeners when he chose to speak. He also praised the petty officer on his preternatural ability to grow formidable facial hair. At one point his follicle-rich face was a “mix of Grizzly Adams and Elvis Presley.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Stanley could not put into words a description that did justice to Bewley. One had to experience the young man to fully appreciate his quirkiness and what came to be known as “KB-isms.”

“Everything KB did was unique to him, was unique to the time that he did them,” Stanley said.

A common thread among those closest to Bewley noted his pride in being a father. Stanley recalled his friend and peer telling him about an improvised bedtime story he gave his 4-year-old daughter when she visited NAS Whidbey. Refusing to reread a story, Bewley, true to form, improvised and read from Field & Stream. He never heard a complaint.

“KB cherished his daughter and he cherished the responsibility of being a father,” Stanley said.

After losing five EOD team members, Stanley was not prepared for tragedy to strike again. He did, however, take the time before Bewley left on his second deployment to impart to the young sailor how much he cared for him.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeffrey Swanson could not doubt Bewley’s happiness in the afterlife. His brother, Patrick, attended the memorial and Swanson lauded his commitment to his sibling, with whom he had shared many adventures.

“Today I know that KB is happy,” Swanson said. “Patrick is making good on his promise to take care of his little girl.”

Rear Adm. Michael Tillotson, Deputy Commander, Naval Expeditionary Combat Command, said Bewley’s family cherishes his memory, finding solace in the knowledge that he died “doing what he wanted to do.”

“They’re not being tied down by the loss, they are thriving on it,” Tillotson said.

Bewley was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

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