Recently returned U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ryan Cowan poses for a photo with his fiancee Danielle Gwozdz after arriving home in Pittsfield with a police escort.
Recently returned U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ryan Cowan poses for a photo with his fiancee Danielle Gwozdz after arriving home in Pittsfield with a police escort. (Scott Stafford / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
Sunday June 23, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Ken and Donna Cowan had a nice day Saturday, to put it mildly.

Their eldest son came home from war, safe and sound.

Dozens of family members, friends, neighbors and supporters were lining Harryl Street when Army 1st Lt. Ryan Cowan arrived complete with a police escort.

Neighbors festooned the roadsides with flags, banners and balloons. Applause rolled through the neighborhood when Cowan, 25, stepped out of the car.

"It's overwhelming," said Donna Cowan as her uniformed son was shaking hands and hugging supporters. "These are tears of joy."

His fiancee, Danielle Gwozdz, said she is considerably less anxious now that he has returned to the United States.

Lt. Cowan said he spent nine months in the Khowst province of eastern Afghanistan as part of an artillery platoon and a partnership mission working with the Afghan military. He is assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team with the 101st Airborne Division. He returned in May to Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

He said he feels relieved to not only be home, but because "we brought the whole platoon home -- 23 guys -- with no life-altering injuries."

Saturday was Cowan's first time home since his deployment. And he was surprised by the turnout.

"I expected some family, but I didn't know half the town was going to turn up," he said.

Lt. Cowan is scheduled for another deployment in a year -- destination as yet unknown.

Ken Cowan said he is proud that his son has found a career that he enjoys and is worthwhile.

"He likes what he's doing," he said. "It's what he always wanted to do. And we always told him -- just enjoy what you do, as long as you're good at it."

Lt. Cowan's little brother Tyler, 22, just graduated from Syracuse University and the ROTC program. He is set to begin his career in the Army as a 2nd lieutenant in the Active Chemical Corps based at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

Naturally, he is glad to see his brother home.

"We haven't seen each other in a while," Tyler Cowan said. "He's always been somebody to look up to."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford