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View a eulogy for Bryan Rowland Stevens, USMA '66, who passed away on January 13, 2019.

Bryan Rowland Stevens

West Point, 1966

Be Thou At Peace

Posted by Mike Brown, Cam Ely, Gordon Hall, Pete Hines, Raymond Fred Rees, Paul Roggenkamp on June 2, 2020:

My wife and I were walking back to our car from a University of Oregon football game when, in the next lane, I saw another fan walking with his wife to their car. I turned and said, "There is a military man. I can tell by the way he is walking and how he wears his baseball cap." In the blink of an eye, I followed with, "That is a military man. That is my classmate, Bryan Stevens." Even though we lived in the same state for more than 30 years, it was a chance encounter that brought a reunion that endured until his passing.

It turned out that Bryan was among a half dozen or more classmates who had chosen to establish themselves in the Portland region after leaving the Army. That group of brothers has contributed to this memorial.

Bryan was born in Britton, South Dakota, 25 November 1942. Britton is the county seat of Marshall County in the Northeast corner of South Dakota. He was the son of a farm family and fully understood the demands and responsibilities of farm life. That upbringing included a strong faith, a sense of fiscal accountability, and respect for education. Fellow South Dakotan, Paul Roggenkamp, remembers boyhood in that era this way:

"As kids growing up in South Dakota, we were blessed to live in a beautiful place at a great time in America.

Most boys learned to hunt pheasants and ducks at the side of their fathers, and as soon as age 12, could take the NRA safety course to earn the right to get a hunting license and carry a shotgun/rifle to hunt. It was a rite of passage to manhood and a great way to learn to shoot as we as provided wild game for moms to cook. In addition, the fishing in South Dakota was incredible. There were great lakes and fishing holes everywhere.

The rural life was physically demanding but developed a certain grit and perseverance as well as resourcefulness which served us well at the Academy and in the Army. Bucking hay, working to pick rocks out of the fields prior to seeding, milking cows twice a day and many other chores for farm boys developed a work ethic and understanding of doing your part to help the family succeed."

The importance of community and connectedness that Bryan embodied was also, clearly, a value gained from growing up in rural South Dakota. Roggenkamp reflected, "During our First Class year, a group of educators from South Dakota came to West Point to tour and learn about the system of education and training at the Academy. Bryan, Tom Graybow and I were invited to meet them and spent some time explaining our experiences. That experience appeared in the Aberdeen, SD newspaper. (Aberdeen was the largest town near to both of our hometowns.) Many years later, I met with my 5th grade teacher who was celebrating her 100th birthday. She made a point to give me a copy of that article as well as an article from the same newspaper of our graduation from West Point with the three of us pictured and described. She had saved the articles for 50 years. That was a manifestation of the kind of closeness and interest people of rural South Dakota had for their students and friends.

I believe the other aspect of growing up in a small town or on a farm in those days was that no one could escape accountability. Everyone in town knew who you were and they knew your parents so you couldn't get away with anything. Sounds like good prep for Plebe year, doesn't it?"

After some time at university in South Dakota, Bryan was appointed to USMA in 1962. He arrived at West Point as a mature college man in comparison to most of the new cadets. His easygoing personality and solid, serious and dependable approach to cadet life made him easy to like among his classmates. Roggenkamp reminded us, "Bryan played 150 football for 3 years. As plebes we couldn't play in games, so we took great pride in hammering the varsity in practice. It paid off in the varsity having an undefeated season. Bryan also showed his versatility and love of sports and competition by running track for 4 years. Faith was also a big part of our childhood development and Bryan sang in the Cadet Chapel Choir while I taught Sunday School."

Upon graduation Bryan was commissioned in the Infantry and served in Germany. Those were hard times as the Army had levied USAREUR for officers to fill the expanding ranks of the Army in Vietnam. Bryan quickly became a company commander as a Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, Kitzingen, Germany. After that demanding experience in 1967 and early 1968, he was ordered to Vietnam. There he was assigned to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. As an advisor and a newly promoted Captain, he found himself in the thick of operations in the post-TET 68 era.

Many people think of Vietnam in terms of big battles or search and destroy sweeps of thousands of troops. Bryan's was much closer and more personal. He often shared a humorous story about searching for a specific VC Operative without success. Ultimately, Bryan got his man. The VC's former girlfriend found out he was a philanderer. She showed Bryan the operative's hiding place and the rest is history.

From MACV he was reassigned to Ranger School as an instructor in Florida where he concluded his active military service in 1970.

He then embarked on a successful career in business and finance. He entered the MBA program at the University of South Dakota and received his degree in 1972. Union Pacific Railroad saw his talent and hired him to be part of their management development program.

It was UPRR that brought him to Oregon. This seemed to be divine providence because everything came together for Bryan in Portland. He left UPRR for a position as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch. He successfully maneuvered through boom and bust for 38 years and retired as a Vice President. (More than a few of his classmates wished they had taken advantage of his foresight of the 2008 recession.)

He met and married Tami and enjoyed being the father to their three daughters, Michelle, Melissa, and Melody. He and the family were strongly committed to their church.

The chance that I would reconnect with Bryan in a stadium parking lot was greatly enhanced by his success in business and marriage. That success gave him latitude and the wherewithal to devote time to his passions. One was following college level track, football and baseball as a devoted fan of Oregon, Oregon State and Portland State. There was hardly a game or meet he would miss. Another was putting much time and effort into living his faith through committed leadership of several charities to include the Salvation Army, India Partners, and the La Vina Feeding Program. He and Tami spent considerable time devoted to missionary work in Mexico and Asia. Last but not least, due to those great lakes he grew up around in South Dakota, he was an avid fisherman. He thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of salmon fishing off the mouth of the Columbia River.

Bryan was a great friend, a good citizen, a loving father, a successful business man and a faithful servant of the Lord. As his Howitzer entry states: "With his natural ability and hard-working attitude, Bryan can look forward to a fine future in whatever he chooses." Bryan chose wisely. Bryan Rowland Stevens -- well done!


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