Page 3


Afghanistan II Texas FAMILIES UNITED BY GRIEF On Aug. i8, staff Sgt. Clayton Bowen of San Antonio was riding in a humvee in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, on a mission to secure the area for the upcoming national elections. Blessed with good suspension, the three vehicles in front of Bowen’s made it over an IED unscathed. But Bowen’s vehicle was a rougher ride, triggering a deadly explosion. Staff Sgt. Michael Murphrey of Snyder, riding in one of the other vehicles, helped get Bowen and his compatriots out of the burning vehicle. Clay was alive, but unconscious. He died shortly after, on the way to the hospital. After Michael recalled the incident to his dad, Elvie Murphrey, the elder Murphrey decided to contact Bowen’s parents to tell them his son had been with Clay when he died. Reesa Doebbler, Clay’s mom, appreciated the goodwill call. Three weeks later, as it was getting dark, Michael Murphrey was driving up a steep mountain road with his men in the same perilous zone. Murphrey wanted to get to the top of the mountain before dark. But he told the driver to hold up. As he had so recently experienced, IEDs riddle those roads. He didn’t want himself or his men to be the next Clay Bowen. The vehicle stopped and Murphrey stepped out. He had not walked far when he stepped on a pressurized plate and set off a makeshift bomb. Staff Sg. Clayton Bowen A Black Hawk helicopter flew him to the hospi tal, but Michael Murphrey died shortly after arrival. He was 25 years old. A couple of days later Bowen’s mother was the one consoling the Murphreys. The two families have been in touch ever since. Speaking to the Observer on the two-month anniversary of his son’s death, Elvie Murphrey was hurting. “It’s hard,” he says. “Every day is hard. But I don’t mind talking about him. I loved him so…” His voice trails off. “He said he had a feeling he wasn’t gonna make it home. I would just tell him to shut up. I didn’t wanna hear that shit” Michael had grown up hunting and shooting firearms. “Maybe the military was his calling,” Murphrey says. “Thing is, I was never worried about him coming home. I was just worried about him coming home sane” THE WORST DAY Reese Doebbler, mother of Staff Sgt. Clay Bowen: “I stayed up late the evening of August i8 on the couch in the living roommy husband had gone to bed. It was like I was waiting for them to come. We usually go to bed early to feed the horses. I was staring out of the front window and I could see the road through the trees. At 10 p.m., I saw a car drive very slowly and briefly stop at my driveway, which has a gateI live on five acres. Then the car passed, turned around and parked photo courtesy Reese Doebbler in the other direction, turning off their lights. I went to get my husband to tell him something was going on at the gate. In the back of my mind, I knew! “My husband, Buddy, drove up there, saw the military plates and inquired. Buddy drove back, came inside and told me to put on my robe. I asked, who is it? All he said was it was a military vehicle. I started shaking and mumbling that maybe Clay was only hurt. “When the officer and chaplain came in, I was just standing there. The officer, on behalf of general this or that and himself, `give me their deepest condolences. I knew what that meant, and I just stood there in shock. My husband asked a few questions. I was speechless and couldn’t even cry. I sat up the rest of the night. It was the worst day of my life. “Clay had called me the evening before to tell me they were going out on a mission. He hadn’t been gone very long before his vehicle in the convoy hit the IED. “Growing up, Clay was always an entertainer. He had more friends than most of us have in a lifetime. After airborne training, he got involved with the 82nd Airborne All American Chorusan a capella group that travels the world performing for dignitaries, celebrities, generals and presidents. He was the bass in all the songs. “It just seems like the military needed him because of who he was. What a waste.” NOVEMBER 27, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 19