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Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Cowan, shown in this undated photo, died in a February training accident.

Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Cowan, shown in this undated photo, died in a February training accident. (Courtesy of Tip Cowan)

Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Cowan, shown in this undated photo, died in a February training accident.

Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Cowan, shown in this undated photo, died in a February training accident. (Courtesy of Tip Cowan)

Tip Cowan is in South Korea thanking people who tried to save his son's life.

Tip Cowan is in South Korea thanking people who tried to save his son's life. (Seth Robson / S&S)

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Tip Cowan visited a rugged South Korean hillside this week where a pile of stones marks the spot where his son lost his life in a Feb. 27 helicopter crash.

Chief Warrant Officer Aaron W. Cowan and Capt. Dion J. Burmaz — 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment pilots — were killed when their Apache crashed during a field exercise.

Tip said he wanted to visit the site so he could bury mementos from Aaron’s son, Logan, and his sister, Rachel. And Tip, a retired Army colonel with 28 years of active and Reserve service, wanted to thank those who tried to save his son’s life.

“I could talk to people on the telephone and write them letters but there is nothing like looking them in the eye and saying ‘Thank you,’” Tip said.

He said he’s interested in reading the Army accident report when it is released to learn the cause of the crash. He thought of waiting for its release before visiting South Korea but decided to come now, he said, before those who helped his son are assigned to new duty stations.

Cowan’s first stop was Yongsan Garrison in Seoul to thank the doctors and nurses who worked for four hours on Aaron, who survived the crash but died later at the 121st General Hospital. The father said he met two who cared for Aaron, surgeon Maj. Ryan Moon and anesthesiologist Capt. Natalie Griffin.

Cowan did not visit Camp Page, where his son was stationed. He visited the base and flew over the 2nd ID’s training areas in a Black Hawk helicopter during Aaron’s first South Korean tour in 1992. “I gained an appreciation for South Korea seeing it from the air,” he said.

This week, Cowan traveled to Camp Eagle, where 1-2 recently moved from Camp Page.

There, he talked to 1-2 Commander Lt. Col. Chandler Sherrell and his son’s best friend, Warrant Officer Mark Armstrong.

“Everyone I talked to either knew Aaron or was instructed by him,” Cowan said.

Sherrell arranged for Cowan to visit the crash site with a group of 1-2 soldiers — an emotional visit for them all, the father said.

Tip said his son first flew in a helicopter when he was 2. “He never cried or got upset. He was wide-eyed and interested. When he was a junior in high school he took helicopter flying lessons and got his license,” Cowan said. “His first solo flight was from Albuquerque, N.M., to his home in Silver City, N.M., and he landed in our front yard.”

Cowan’s son was a Ranger from 1986 to 1992, when he was admitted to flight school. Soon Aaron, who comes from a family of teachers, was instructing other soldiers. In South Korea he ran “the dunker” — a device that trains soldiers to escape from helicopters that crash in water. As a master diver, he was the right man for the job, Cowan said.

Aaron’s family has set up an educational fund for his son, Logan, he said.

Sherrell said the soldiers appreciated Tip’s visit. “He is a retired soldier. It shows how tight-knit the military family truly is. It was a trip he didn’t have to make but to take the time to thank not only our soldiers but the medical personnel and pilots who moved Aaron quickly on the day of the accident is certainly a testament to the caliber of the person that Aaron Cowan was,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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