Source: MICHAEL HOFFMAN airforcetimes.com
20 Jan 2010—Every time Peggy Bourland watches another survivor get rescued from under a collapsed building in Haiti, she asks the same question: “Why can’t it be my husband?”
Air Force Maj. Ken Bourland is trapped under Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince after a Jan. 12 earthquake leveled the island nation’s capital. Bourland, a career UH-1 Huey pilot, is the Caribbean desk officer at Southern Command headquarters in Miami.
Bourland, 37, had flown into Haiti from the Dominican Republic the morning of the earthquake with Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy director of U.S. Southern Command. He sent his wife an e-mail with “Wow Haiti” in the subject line just minutes before the earthquake hit at 5 p.m. He told her he had arrived safely and described how moved he was by the poverty he had already seen on the streets.
Peggy Bourland quickly replied to her husband’s e-mail, then moved on to finding cartoons for their sons to watch on television. Flipping through the channels, she saw a news report about the earthquake. She didn’t think much of it at first, assuming it was a report on an earlier California earthquake. Then she saw “Haiti” come up on the screen.
“I just stood there in shock at first so I went back to the computer and I e-mailed Ken and asked him if this was for real — ‘it just said on the news that you all had an earthquake.’ And when he didn’t respond back I replied again and said ‘please, tell me you are OK,’ ” Peggy Bourland said in a telephone interview from the family’s home in Weston, Fla.
Peggy Bourland and her family have been waiting by the phone since then, waiting to hear that Ken Bourland has been pulled alive from the rubble.
Bourland was staying was on the second floor of the hotel. He was preparing to go to a dinner at the U.S. Embassy at the time of the earthquake, Peggy Bourland said. She was told another airman traveling with the general had gone to her husband’s room to borrow a dinner jacket.
The airman, whose name Peggy Bourland couldn’t remember, was one of the five other members of U.S. Southern Command traveling with Keen and Bourland. All five, also staying in the hotel, escaped. Keen, outside the hotel at the time of the earthquake, is now overseeing U.S. military aid as commander of Joint Task Force Haiti.
The survival of the five team members and other guests at Hotel Montana gives Peggy Bourland and her family hope, but it’s mixed with guilt and disappointment.
“I am very blessed and thankful for the people and their families that they are finding, but I just want it to be my husband,” she said. “It is exciting that they are alive, but it is disappointing that it’s not Ken.”
At least 200 are still trapped inside Hotel Montana. The earthquake has killed at least 200,000, according to an estimate by the European Commission.
Peggy has been told that a team of 20 from the Defense Department is looking for her husband along with other search-and-rescue teams at Hotel Montana. Those teams also include members of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Fairfax County (Va.) Task Force Urban Search and Rescue Team.
A representative of SouthCom and an Air Force liaison officer update the Bourlands two or three times a day on the search efforts.
Bourland’s mother, father and sister have joined Peggy, the couple’s three sons and her mother and father in Weston. Ken and Peggy Bourland have two young sons — Charley, 3, and Andrew, 16 months. Peggy Bourland’s son, Chance Anderson, 14, also lives with the couple.
The family celebrated Charley’s birthday Jan. 10 — a day early — so his dad could be at the party before he left on his flight for the Dominican Republic. It was the last time Peggy Bourland saw her husband.
The two met six years ago and have been married for five. He asked his wife to marry him a year after they met on a blind date. Ken Bourland proposed Nov. 10, 2004, at a Marine Corps ball in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He had returned three months earlier from a deployment to Iraq with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, which he was assigned to as part of an Air Force exchange program.
“They gave him a hard time about that. We were the only Air Force people at the Marine Corps Ball,” Peggy Bourland said. “One of our first dates was at the Marine Corps Ball a year earlier … and maybe he did some thinking while he was over in Iraq.”
Ken Bourland’s sister, Kellie Bourland, said her brother grew up in Birmingham, Ala., wanting to fly and join the Air Force just like their father. Ken Bourland graduated 15 years ago from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he earned an Air Force commission. Bourland started out as a maintenance officer before he transferred to pilot training.
“He always had that love for flying and even took hang gliding lessons in high school,” said Kellie Bourland, who last spoke to her brother Jan. 10.
Kellie Bourland and Peggy Bourland said they hoped Bourland’s extensive military training will help him survive without food or water.
“He’s a military guy. … He kind of thinks things out. He knows he has to stay calm,” Peggy Bourland said. “I really feel in my heart that is what he is doing. He is just waiting and trying to figure out ways to keep himself alive. I kind of think of him as my Survivorman.”