Eastern Shore native Pfc. Samuel R. Bowen, 38, died Wednesday in Iraq when a rocket-propelled grenade landed near his truck, his family said.
Bowen, who lived in Cleveland, grew up and spent most of his life in Berlin, just outside Ocean City. He moved to Ohio about five years ago, said his sister Consuella Bowen, and worked as a chef at several hotels.
Bowen was a member of the 216th Engineer Battalion, an Ohio National Guard unit based in Akron, according to a statement released by the Pentagon yesterday.
Three weeks ago, family members said, Bowen rescued wounded colleagues during a grenade attack near a military commissary north of Baghdad.
Ron Eaton of Lakewood, Ohio, was carrying a box of Gatorade on June 16 when he was hit by shrapnel from a grenade. Eaton said three soldiers were killed and 25 people were wounded, including two civilians.
Bowen was not seriously hurt and tended to Eaton and others who were wounded in the attack by Iraqi insurgents, according to the Associated Press.
Eaton, 35, said the grenade knocked him and Bowen off their feet. Eaton was wounded in his abdomen, liver and arm.
"A second round came in within a second, and that round landed behind us," Eaton told the Associated Press. "While I was laying on the ground, Sam actually grabbed me by the collar and dragged me away from the building."
Bowen's mother, Elsie Bowen, said yesterday that one of the enduring memories of her son is from when he was 3. The little boy stood on a kitchen stool to cook a scrambled-egg breakfast for his younger sister, Tammatha - a happy family moment that foreshadowed his career as a chef who specialized in catering.
Bowen was nicknamed "Smokey" when he was an infant by a cousin because of his dark complexion, said Consuella Bowen, 40.
"As a kid, he just loved to take things apart and put them back together," she said. "He was about 8 when he started hanging around with one of the local electricians. He'd go along and help out on jobs. He was just your typical rambunctious boy."
Bowen was a 1983 graduate of Stephen Decatur High in Berlin and joined the service after school. He learned to cook during a stint in the Army. His military training led to a variety of jobs on the Eastern Shore, where he cooked at the Worcester County Detention Center in the mid-1990s, for a catering operation at the Ocean City Convention Center and at a number of restaurants in Salisbury.
"Smokey was just a good all-around guy," said Capt. Bill Brittingham, the jail's operations officer. "I saw his picture on TV, and I almost cried."
Bowen left the service but later joined the Army Reserves, said Consuella Bowen. Stationed in Iraq since December, Bowen visited his extended family on the Shore last winter, she said.
In addition to his mother and two sisters, Bowen is survived by his father, Robert Davis of Berlin; his wife, Melanie; and four children, ages 15 to 21, Consuella Bowen said.
Army officials have told the family that Bowen's body will arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware in about a week. Arrangements for a funeral in Cleveland and a memorial service in Berlin were incomplete yesterday, family members said.
Services for another Maryland service member who died in Iraq, Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Ryan Adle of Bel Air, are at 10 a.m. today at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Bel Air.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.