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Army Officer Dies After Doing Good Deed – A Lesson for All of Us

This article in the local paper caught my eye. A career Army officer with two combat tours died after stopping to help a random motorist change a flat tire.

Col. Townsend was a brigade commander at Ft. Lee, Virginia. That is a big job and if Ft. Lee is anything like Ft. Campbell was in my day (40 years ago), a full Colonel and brigade commander is a big deal. Even the seemingly nicer colonels struck fear into the hearts of young lieutenants. Yet, Col. Townsend stopped to help someone with a flat tire. As he finished up, the car fell on him and a day later, he was dead.

Fort Lee officials say Col. Gregory S. Townsend, commander, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade, U.S. Army Quartermaster School, was driving on Route 460 when he stopped to help a motorist change a tire on April 18. (Source: U.S. Army Fort Lee)

I am not surprised that a career soldier like this officer stopped to help a stranger. The military is certainly comprised of “warriors” (to use the current term), but those same tough individuals typically possess a giving and protective spirit. That’s why they do what they do. It’s why they are who they are. And that spirit was very much on display when Col. Townsend went out of his way to assist someone. That is an example we should all emulate.

A story such as this is also a graphic reminder that life is short and none of us can really predict when it will end. There is so much that we really cannot control despite our best efforts. Intellectually, most of us can grasp that notion. Viscerally or emotionally, it is a much harder lesson to learn and retain. It is one that all too easily can be ignored, set aside or forgotten. We do so at our peril because none of us have a guarantee that tomorrow will come. Live your life now; love your family now; take care of your friends and colleagues now and do what is right now. You might not have another chance.

I didn’t know Col. Townsend. I never heard of him before reading this article. But it’s a safe bet that he was a decent and honorable man, a good soldier. Rest in peace, Col. Townsend.

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