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
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
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
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
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
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.”