CHILLICOTHE — More than 200 people gathered Monday near Chillicothe's post office to honor a former resident who died last year while serving with one of the U.S. military's most elite special operations teams.
But it wasn't a somber moment as people remembered Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a 1998 graduate of Illinois Valley Central High School. He was killed Jan. 29, 2017, while serving with SEAL Team 6 against members of al-Qaida in Yemen. U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, sponsored legislation this past year to rename the city's post office after a man he called a hero to all.
LaHood said that at times, Americans take freedoms for granted and should stop and remember people like Owens who sacrifice so others can go about their lives.
It was a moment, his sister Kristen Treutle said, to remember the words of Gen. George S. Patton Jr., the famous World War II general: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived."
And it was with that attitude that veterans, community members, several politicians and others gathered to unveil the plaque that named the post office after Owens. The heat didn't keep people away. A family gathered about 50 yards away from the stage, which was near the fire station, in the shade of a tree to hear the ceremony. Others stood in the sun and squinted against the sunlight.
Owens' three children, Brooke, Luke and Taryn, sat on stage and had buttons that honored their father. All three, under the age of 11, watched the ceremony and were impressed by the plaque. After the main ceremony, a small group of family walked over to the post office to see the plaque that has already been hung. The kids were asking questions about the date and other things. Carryn Owens, his widow, just put her hand on her husband's name.
"It's an honor that will live for eternity. I thought it was awesome when I was given the date for this dedication, having been Father's Day weekend," Carryn Owens said during the ceremony. "You all could have not picked a more appropriate weekend. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, whose congressional district in Virginia includes Virginia Beach, where Ryan's SEAL team was stationed, spoke at the event.
"This is a time to remember, a time of celebration and a time of dedication," he said. "In our heartache there is always hope, as we are better that Ryan has lived."
The U.S. Defense Department said Owens was assigned to the East Coast-based SEAL Team 6, a highly classified and elite counter-terrorism unit that also is known by the term DEVGRU. Three other sailors, presumably with the same SEAL team, were injured in the raid. The raid left nearly 30 others dead, including an estimated 14 militants. At least one young girl also died during the raid.
Owens had enlisted in the Navy after graduation and had deployed 12 times. In an email he sent to his wife before he left for his final mission, Owens said he was getting out soon and looked forward to seeing more of his wife and children. Taylor said reputation was important within the special operations community, and Owens was well-regarded among his peers. He completed more than 1,000 missions, a lot even for a member of the elite SEALs, who are constantly deploying.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.