Decorated war veteran dies while helping stranded motorist in Virginia

Updated: Apr. 24, 2019 at 10:09 AM EDT
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FORT LEE, VA (WWBT) - A Fort Lee officer and decorated war veteran died this week, days after a vehicle fell on him while helping a stranded motorist.

Fort Lee officials said Col. Gregory S. Townsend, commander, 23rd Quartermaster Brigade, U.S. Army Quartermaster School, was driving on U.S. Highway 460 near the Wakefield town line when he stopped to help a motorist change a tire on April 18.

“As he finished changing the tire, the vehicle fell on him,” Fort Lee officials said in a news release. “He was taken by a life flight helicopter to VCU Critical Care Hospital, where he received treatment until his death."

"Many of us have said that we can't think of any other Brigade Commander who would stop on the side of the road and change a tire,” said U.S. Army Major Curtis Ivins. “That just speaks volumes for the kind of person he is."

Townsend, 46, joined the Army in May 1996 after graduating from Auburn University and commissioned through ROTC into the Quartermaster Corps.

Ivins met Townsend in 2009 while they were stationed at Fort Bragg. They were eventually deployed, working beside and with each other in the Middle East.

"In our job, especially in Iraq it's very easy to get riled, stressed out, loud, but he was always calm, straight forward,” Ivins said. “You'd be the one stressed out, running around and he'd be there standing in the hallway smiling at you and you knew you needed to back it off just a notch."

“He put 100% into everything he did,” said former U.S. Army Captain Matt Babika. “He was one of those senior officers where if he was not tied into doing something administrative or in an orders process he was out doing PT, setting the expectation.”

According to Ivins and Babika, exercise and competitiveness was something Townsend enjoyed. “He was a football player and he was proud to let everyone know it,” Babika said.

But beyond that, “genuine” was the word that’s been used all over social media and from fellow soldiers.

“You never had to second guess what he was saying, what he felt, or the fact that he cared about you,” Ivins said.

Townsend was deployed to Iraq twice (Feb. ’03 - Feb ‘04 & Aug. ’09 - Aug. ‘10) and once to Afghanistan (Oct. ’09 - Jan. ‘10).

He arrived at Fort Lee in July 2017 where he took command of the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade. From that time, and even before then, he left an impact on dozens of soldiers.

“He helped mold me as a professional and as a married man, and a father now,” Babika said. “I can directly contribute some of the things he provided me to the man I am today.”

“He was such a great guy,” Ivins added. “It’s such a loss to the Army.”

Townsend’s awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Staff Commendation Medal, and Army Commendation Medal.

“The loss of Col. Greg Townsend is devastating for his family and the Army. He was a dedicated leader and the most genuine man you could meet,” said Brig. Gen. Douglas M. McBride Jr., 55th Quartermaster General and commandant, Quartermaster School. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Greg’s family and friends during this very difficult time. His legacy as a servant leader will live on in the hearts and minds of all Soldiers that he has served with and led.”

Funeral arrangements have not been released at this time.

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