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Chesterfield woman remembers brother killed in action: 'To see him was joy'

Posted at 10:01 PM, May 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 00:02:05-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Family members sat front row Monday as Chesterfield County's own Sgt. Joseph Albert Owens was honored in the Chesterfield County Memorial Day Ceremony.

Sgt. Owens was killed in the line of duty in the October 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

Monday, the Gold Star Mothers flag was presented to his mom, Frances Owens, and a plaque with the name 'Joseph A. Owens' was dedicated and placed on the Chesterfield Veterans Memorial Wall.

"Joe always had a smile and he always wanted to have a laugh," said Deanna Owens. "That was his job in life to keep a smile on your face."

It had been 38 years since Deanna last saw her big brother, but she said his memory still brought a smile to her face.

"Even today," Deanna said.

To the crowd gathered at the Chesterfield County Historic Courthouse Green Monday, he was Sgt. Owens, a Marine killed in the line of duty. But Deanna and her family remember him as Joe, outgoing, funny, the life of the party.

"He acquired the name 'Teddy Bear' once he got into his division and so forth because of his soft heart that he always had for people -- and animals especially," Deanna said.

At the age of 20, the Chesterfield native joined the military, but Deanna said he had some help from his little sister.

"I was so excited about him being in uniform and everything. He taught me how to iron his uniform and taught me how to do his boots -- later in life I learned he used me, and he got free chores out of me," Deanna said with a laugh. "I thought it was fun at the time."

But the trips home stopped when Sgt. Owens was deployed to Beirut in May 1983 as part of a peacekeeping mission.

Deanna wore a photo of him close to her heart, taken on the BLT building, that she said she received just weeks before it was bombed.

"It’s a day you relive all the time. Over the years it's gotten better. But we still remember October 23 every year," Deanna said.

But on this Memorial Day, Deanna and her family weren't alone in their memories. Crowds came out to pay tribute to the fallen, and to honor Sgt. Owens. Deanna said it was something the family would always treasure.

"To see him was joy. It brought joy to my face and to mom’s," Deanna said. "I’m proud of him for what he did and the sacrifice he made. We miss him. But events like today -- it helps the family because we know that people haven’t forgotten."