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Another life lost

In August 2001, at the age of 21, Bewley joined the ranks of the Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal technicians as his father Ronald and brother J. Patrick witnessed his proud moment.

But friends and family in Hector, a tiny town in central Arkansas, are now mourning the loss of Bewley. The sailor was killed in action on Nov. 8 in Salah ad Din province, Iraq; the sixth sailor assigned to Whidbey who had died in the war.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Bewley,

27, leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter, McKenzie Bewley.

He had been assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11, a Navy bomb squad based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade and Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Chaney died July 17 when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle in Salah Ad Din. Chief Petty Officer Gregory John Billiter, Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Adam McSween and Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis Ralph Hall died April 6, when a rocket tore into their Humvee in Hawijah.

All of the Whidbey sailors killed in Iraq have died during 2007, the deadliest year in Iraq since 2004.

Bewley’s death comes as American opposition to the war continues to grow. A CNN poll this week found

68 percent of those polled now oppose the war. All told, 3,857 American troops have died in the Iraq War.

The sailor’s shipmates and family this week remembered Bewley as an honest, hardworking man who was a good-natured prankster when he could get away with it.

“His death is a tremendous loss to his family, friends and the entire EOD community,” said Navy Capt. Barry Coceano, commander Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group One.

“He was a warrior who was protecting the lives of his fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, as well as local Iraqi citizens.”

Bewley’s father remembered the day and time his son was born at

11 a.m., April 18, 1980.

“I loved him. I thought the world of him. He was tough as a little boot,” his father said.

Though the sailor was his second son, he would always be Number 4 to his dad, a Dodger’s fan. It was Ronald Bewler’s favorite number after Duke Schneider wore the number as a center fielder for the Dodgers.

Connie Whitaker, the sailor’s mother, recalled a man who was devoted to his daughter.

“He loved his daughter. He was a wonderful human being,” she said.

“He was past wonderful; too wonderful for words. He was funny. He was thoughtful of everyone who came across his path,” Whitaker added. “He never quit. He always rose above any obstacle that came in his path.”

J. Patrick Bewley, 32, lost a friend as well as a brother.

“He and I were extremely close. We grew up taking trips and camping and stuff. We literally took a trip every chance we got. And we got to go to some really amazing places,” he said.

“He had a really amazing and simple outlook on life. Everything was so straightforward and so simple for him. Every year, the bond between us got stronger and we got closer every year. We lived our lives with no regrets and we went everywhere as a team.”

Bewley’s best friend, Zane Snider, remembered Bewley as a true blue kind of friend.

“We grew up together, from baby all the way up and out of high school,” Snider said.

“It is hard to pinpoint just one personality characteristic that was good about Kevin. He was always honest, trustworthy, really sympathetic of others. Whatever needs you were facing, he was there beside you.”

Bewley worked for Ellis McCuinn at Mac’s Food Market in Hector for seven years and during that time, McCuin came to see Bewley as a son.

“Kevin was happy-go-lucky, fun-loving and a good worker as well. He never got into any kind of trouble,” he said. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do that I asked him to do.”

Those who knew Bewley said he was a dedicated and thoughtful young man. But they also saw a playful side in him, as well. No one escaped his pranks, it seemed.

Like the time when he snuck into his mother’s house and persuaded his dogs to jump onto his mother’s bed. Snuggled under the covers, his mom found herself pinned by 200 pounds of dog.

“I absolutely could not move. At this point the lab is licking my face and

I can’t do anything,” Whitaker said.

Snider recalled that when he and Bewley were very young, Bewley convinced Snider to climb a tree — a tough sales job because Snider was afraid of heights.

“He bet me that I could climb up to the top of a tree. I told him the only way I was going up there was if he went, too,” Snider said. “He said, ‘Yeah I’ll go up there.’ We made it to the top of the tree.”

“Getting down wasn’t so easy and he left me high and dry there for a good 20 or 30 minutes.”

Bewley’s antics didn’t stop when he joined the Navy either, his brother said. The two traded laughs over a day when after an underwater demolition team stole a Zodiac boat from Bewley’s team, Bewley pranked the team in return.

“So to pay them back, one night, they had stolen all of their suntan lotion bottles, emptied them out and put mayonnaise back in them,” the elder Bewley recalled.

“The guys went out on the water the next day. The team is one Zodiac boat over, with grown men slathering mayonnaise on themselves. They got baked and sunburnt.”

Laughter and antics aside, Bewley took his job in the military seriously, even before he enlisted.

“He wanted to be a military personnel from the time I ever knew him. He was going to be either a Ranger, Special Forces or a SEAL,” McCuin said. “That was all he ever talked about. He ran every single day. He prepared for his life in the military.”

Bewley’s brother saw the same determination.

“Being as close as we were, we never really fought. We were very competitive with one another. It got harder and harder to keep up with him and catch him when he was running or biking or things like that,” he said. “Eventually, there was no hope that I would ever catch him again.”

Bewley’s family has been devastated by their sailor’s death.

Bewley’s death has rocked the family to the core, his father said.

His father said he has not slept since military personnel showed up on his doorstep three days ago. It was painful to see his name among those killed in the war.

“Right on TV, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin R. Bewley, 27 years old. Killed in action,” he recounted. “Damn that’s hard to look at.”

Bewley knew as soon as he saw the men in uniform get out of their vehicles that his son had been killed. It took them a while to get around to how his son had died.

“The EOD had responded to a roadside bomb. It was like a booby trap, one set up and another across the road,” his father said.

“They said Kevin did everything he should have done. Kevin was the team leader. He defused that bomb. Then he turned around and told the people that there was another one on the other side of the road that was booby trapped.”

The team had disabled that bomb, as well, when someone fired a rocket-propelled grenade at Bewley from behind.

It was Bewley’s second tour in Iraq. Family members recalled talking to him before he left for his second deployment.

Bewley’s father visited him at Whidbey Island in the days before his son left, and will never forget the last time he saw his son.

“I flew out of Coupeville Oct. 9, 2007. It was cold and kind of foggy and rainy. We sat inside and talked,” he said. “Kevin said ‘Dad, you know every third plane crashes.’

“I said, “Hell, the one I am on isn’t going to crash.’ He just punched me and laughed. I said ‘Hey, I am not too good at saying goodbye. So, ‘til the next time.’”

“Kevin told me we’d go to Montana next time. I just hugged him and didn’t want to look back around,” his father said.

Ronald Bewley boarded the airplane and as the airplane taxied down the runway for take off, he saw his son waving to him and laughing.

“I waved at him. And we took off,” he said.

Bewley talked with his son the week before he died.

“He called me six or seven days before this happened. Every time he’d call me, he’d say ‘Yooo Dad, how are you doing?’” he said.

“I’d tell him ‘I’m alright - how are you?’ He told me it wasn’t as hot and that he was staying in a kind of concrete bunker. ‘We’ve got a TV and a computer and a microwave,’ he said. I told him “Hell, you’ve got it made.” I was trying to keep him pumped up.”

Snider was worried about Bewley’s second tour.

“To tell you the truth, I just had a bad feeling the past few weeks. I’ve been trying to talk with him and normally he’d respond. I hadn’t heard from him in a while,” Snider said.

“I did receive an e-mail from him asking me to pray for his daughter because he wasn’t feeling too hot. I e-mailed him back and told him it was a done deal and that was pretty much the last conversation I had with him.”

The last time his daughter and his mother saw him was in September.

“You always think that you won’t see your child again. You always know. You’re always afraid. You always know what may be out there,” she said.

“On one side of your brain, you hope it never happens. On the other side, you know it can happen ay any time. You live your life sitting on the edge of a sword. You can fall either way constantly.”

Both of Bewley’s parents are angry at the White House and the government. They said their son died a needless death.

“It just ain’t right. I ought to be the son-a-bitch in the hole, not him,” his father said.

“He got himself in a bad jam and he got killed in a war that was for nothing but money,” he said. “My boy died, in my opinion, for nothing. We had bad intelligence when we went in.

“Then when it got worse, Bush didn’t do anything but keep going because he was influenced by Cheney. In my opinion, the war was useless. But my son did what he thought he had to do.”

Bewley’s mother agreed.

“I am extremely anti-war. I think that the president, vice president and members of Congress since 2004 who sponsored and support this war should have to send their children,” she said.

“It is one thing to say you believe in something when you don’t have a dog going into the fight. It is easy to send somebody else to fight, possibly to be maimed for life or to die for what you say you believe in,” she said.

“These good men and women don’t deserve to die. Our military is our strength. They are our everything. They are literally just being murdered by the White House. There ain’t no other way to say it. My son was murdered,” Whitaker said.

Snider, Bewley’s best friend, considers him a hero.

“How do you describe a hero? How do you describe a person that was willing to fight and defend his country and do it without remorse or regret?” Snider asked.

“He had a lot of hard knocks throughout his life. He was always real calm and nothing stirred him very much. I am going to miss him a lot.”

“Anybody who knew Kevin would not say anything bad about him, not in Hector,” McCuin said. “It’s just a fact. There are a lot of heroes out there. Kevin was one of them.”

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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