HomeNewsArticle Display

Her last goodbye

The last text sent out from Chelsea Rae Bowen was to her boyfriend.

The last text sent out from Chelsea Rae Bowen was to her boyfriend. Senior Airman Brianna Bowen believes the text was a blanket text for all those she loved. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) -- “The worst part of it all was just thinking about what she was thinking in those final moments as she was standing in the bathroom all alone, and I can’t imagine just how lonely she must’ve felt,” said Senior Airman Brianna Bowen, 1st Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller.

According to the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, suicide in the military has risen across the Department of Defense since 2017. Bowen knows first-hand about the impact suicide can have on victims and their loved ones.

Although the computer based training's and annual military suicide prevention classes help members understand warning signs for someone thinking of committing suicide, Bowen believes a more personal stance is needed in order to really understand the topic.

March 16, 2009: The day that changed Bowen’s life

When Bowen was just 13, her older sister Chelsea Bowen, took her own life.

Bowen sat on a nearly empty school bus, awaiting the final stop on the route. As they approached the dirt road that leads to her house, she said it was obvious something was wrong.

“We were passing about five police cars and an ambulance that didn’t have its lights on,” Bowen said.

Bowen was picked up from the bus stop by a police officer, and when she saw her father sitting outside of their house, back against the door, hugging his knees, she knew that it was big.

“Chelsea’s gone.” Mr. Bowen said.

In her final moments Chelsea sent one last text “Goodbye, I will love you forever.”

Although Chelsea’s final text was only sent to her boyfriend, Brianna believes it was a blanket text for all those she loved.

An irrevocable decision

As soon as 15-year old Chelsea and her twin sister, Miranda, got home from high school, Bowen believes Chelsea had already decided what she was going to do.

“It was a Monday, right before finals week, so I guess she planned it out that way on purpose,” Bowen said.

According to her father, Chelsea’s last verbal words to anyone in the family were “Don’t touch my backpack,” after he jokingly said he was going to take it. Their father went outside to check on their chickens, while Miranda sat down on the couch to watch TV.

One decision can have an everlasting impact, and in that moment Chelsea’s decision would change the Bowen family’s life forever.

“Every single detail of that day sticks with me,” Bowen said. “The bloody footprints throughout the house when Miranda was running to get help, to seeing her body bag being pushed out the door into the driveway.”

Making a change

Although a tragedy, Bowen refuses to see her sister’s suicide as just that. She has taken every opportunity to raise awareness about suicide, including starting a scholarship foundation in her sister’s name in her hometown of Gilmanton, New Hampshire.

“It is going to take strong Airmen, like Senior Airman Bowen, to stand up and tell their stories to reach people,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Miller, 1st OSS assistant chief controller. “Senior Airman Bowen’s sister chose to take her own life and that crushed (Brianna). However instead of that being the last story written about her sister, Senior Airman Bowen chose to let her sister’s name live on by providing awareness.”

Bowen hopes for military members to come forward with their own stories to tell and help prevent more suicides from happening with hopes that one day military members can seek more mental health help at off-base providers.

The ideal way to get awareness out for those in need of help is by connecting peoples’ emotions to the topic, according to Bowen. It’s one thing to stare at a screen or listen to a scripted lesson, it’s a whole different experience to listen to a real person with a real story.

“Everyone is just skimming the surface because nobody wants to get into how uncomfortable it can be,” Bowen said. “It’s a battle that every single one of us fights every single day; it’s something we need to feel okay talking to each other about.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: “For me personally, the CAP and Air Guard go hand in hand. When I look back at any state active duty or state support we…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Honored to participate on a panel with my fellow Service Chiefs at the @ReaganInstitute. May our leaders of today & th…
It was just a childhood dream but it crescendoed into this #Airman becoming the only woman in the #AirForce to both… https://t.co/vzGjPe7Vri
RT @USAFReserve: Loadmaster first Reservist to complete USAF Weapons School Advanced Instructor Course (Story by the @403rdWing) #ReserveRe
.@secafoffical will speak about America’s footprint in space going forward at 5:45 EST. Watch live at https://t.co/aSlw5ceGJj
RT @DeptofDefense: LIVE: @EsperDoD delivers keynote remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum. #RNDF https://t.co/ZXhuaTOQTm
Today, we help Col. Charles McGee, a Tuskegee Airman, combat veteran and American legend, celebrate 💯 sorties aroun… https://t.co/bcmcDr4IYW
December 7, 1941. #PearlHarbor and six other #military bases on the Hawaiian island of Oahu were attacked, beginnin… https://t.co/4GvB8yPpGV
RT @US_TRANSCOM: Take a look at @usairforce Airmen assigned to the @109thAW using their ski-equipped C-130s to deliver supplies to the Arct…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Thank you to Gen CQ Brown & the @PACAF team for the outstanding work organizing one of largest gatherings of Pacific A…
RT @DeptofDefense: Flying side by side gets the mission done. @usairforce and @RoyalAirForce participated in exercise Point Blank with @NAT
RT @HQUSAFEPA: Getting to see a chaplain in a remote location is a #blessing. Archbishop of U.S. Military Services Timothy Broglio recently…
RT @AFWERX: Did you catch @EdwardsAFB’s first-ever @TEDx event? There’s no doubt their theme, “Laying the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Innovat…
RT @DeptofDefense: Press ▶️ to get motivated by watching this video of exercise #MobilityGuardian19, Air Mobility Command's largest full-sp…
.@SecAFOfficial Barbara Barrett recently testified to the #SenateArmedServicesCommittee on privatized #military hou… https://t.co/XktLL4cXBB
RT @US_Stratcom: Whether it’s a defender, missile alert facility manager or a missileer, everyone is vital to the intercontinental ballisti…
RT @AFResearchLab: The @AF_SBIR_STTR team alongside the Wright Brothers Institute hosted the first @usairforce Technology Executive Office…
RT @USAFHealth: There is still time to enroll or make changes to your TRICARE plan. Due to a technical issue, the TRICARE Beneficiary Web E…
RT @USAFCENT: GLOBAL REACH | USAF KC-135 refuels F-15Es and F-16s over Northern Iraq. By providing aerial refueling for the USAF, the KC-13…