Private First Class Marvin Robert "Bobby" Owen

Private First Class Marvin Robert "Bobby" Owen

United States Army Military Police Corps, U.S. Government

End of Watch Saturday, August 19, 1978

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Marvin Robert "Bobby" Owen

Private First Class Marvin Owen was killed during a flood while attempting to rescue a family on an access road to the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

The family was stranded on a bridge, and as PFC Owen attempted to rescue them, they were struck by a 12-foot high wall of water, which washed them off of the bridge.

Owen was posthumously awarded the Soldiers Medal of Valor, and the road was later renamed Owen Road.

PFC Owen had served with the United States Army Military Police Corps for two years.


  • Age 19
  • Tour 2 years
  • Badge Not available
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Weather/Natural disaster
  • Location New Mexico

water rescue, weather

Most Recent Reflection

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I was stationed at WSMR, working for National Range Recovery. I had post housing with my wife, who worked as a civilian at the range. Our house was near the back wall (facing the organ mountains), and it was thick as well as at least three feet high. The rain clouds gathered in the Organ mountains, and then - sort of like a toilet bowl as I used to say, they circulated back out towards the post, then back into the mountains. I think it was 11 inches of rain that fell in a few short hours. It was so heavy that it was actually difficult to stand outside and breathe in it. As I was a block from that wall, at one point we could hear watter lapping over the top of it, and then eventually water was coming down some of the streets. I had a friend whose house suffered a broken wall, and flooding, and that was the case with a number of homes the next day as I found out. As I was a member of a REACT squad, others will know what that entails, I got a call the next morning early. In typical gruff form that I was sort of used to by then, I was told to go to the motor pool and mount up for retrieval of bodies. Not a good start to any morning. As I recall it the family that was swept away while crossing an arroyo with a small bridge, was a newly arrived dentist, his wife, and two kids. They stalled out on the crossing, and water was climbing up quickly and pushing their vehicle. PFC Owens put his truck between the oncoming water and their vehicle, and hoped thereby to save them from being swept away. As we gathered later a large amount of water then came sweeping into that pass, and it was very high. It swept them all off that access road, and into the desert. I believe they travelled four miles out, before being mostly buried in the mud. There were 5 ton wreckers and other large vehicles in the south end motor pool, and they were pushed around like toys. There was another guy in that area that was swept into a culvert, but managed to get out, and crawl up on a bank. I did not have to see the bodies thankfully. They were discovered before I got there, but I did see what was left of the vehicles later that day. PFC Owens selflessly put himself in harms way to save that family, and we all knew it. He was a hero for all of us way before they named it Owens road. I did not go back to research any of this, and I may have some things wrong. But it was painful then, and it's still painful now. I saw too many accidents and deaths at WSMR, including my own best friend in a wrecker accident in the mountains. Sorry to make such a long story of this, but at least I told it, before I'm gone myself. Hopefully in my sleep.

PFC K. Wells
WSMR National Range Recovery

September 2, 2022

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