Friday, August 17, 2007

Soldier's Death Illustrates Futility Of Good Decisions

20-year-old soldier killed in Iraq had found his niche
Hector Gutierrez, Rocky Mountain News
August 17, 2007

Spc. Alun R. Howells spent most of his teenage years as a goth in dark and gloomy clothes. He later grew into a strapping young man in Army fatigues.

Howells, 20, attended Gunnison Valley School, an alternative campus for about 35 students, as an angry teen clad black and painted with dark makeup, said Neil Coen, the school's program coordinator. But he found his niche.

In 2004, Coen began to see Howells' transformation. He became a student leader who served as a mentor for other youngsters and he participated in community projects for the disadvantaged.

"One day he shows up in khaki pants, a white shirt and tennis shoes, and I said, 'What's going on?' " Coen remembered. "He just said, 'Yup, I'm over it.' "

On Thursday, Coen and Howells' former classmates toasted Howells at a friend's home in Gunnison after learning that he had been killed in action Monday in Baghdad, Iraq.

"When he went off to the military, he would commit himself to this kind of excellence as a man," Coen said. "This was fully his choice to get out there and be tested and see what his skills were. It was a time of exploration and making these kinds of commitments which were good no matter what happened. It was a no-lose deal."

After Howells graduated from high school, his parents, Gwyn and Jaena Howells, left their Gunnison home and moved to Wisconsin. His father gave up the Island Acres Motel in Gunnison and the Treasury Liquors in Crested Butte, which he owned.

Alun Howells stayed behind in Gunnison, though he eventually would join his parents. Howells had dual citizenship from the U.S. and Great Britain. On his Web page at MySpace.com, Howells wrote about wanting to travel and eventually return to the United Kingdom. He also wrote about pursuing a career in physical therapy.

Howells was with the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, in Fort Stewart, Ga. In one of his last Web page comments, he talked about spending time with his family and friends.

"I would like to meet all my family and friends again in a nice pub that's NOT IN IRAQ and sit down and have a beer and some fish 'n' chips with them and be grateful for their presence and humor and all the other things I took for granted before I left."

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