Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

September 18, 2023
Leland (Lee) Arthur McCown

Obit Leland Arthur McCownWanting no fanfare, in your typical ornery voice, “No memorial, no obituary!” Lee chose his final gift of service to donate his body to medical research, new cancer treatments, and for brothers and sisters suffering from Agent Orange health issues.        

But, Lee, we needed an obituary, and in your own words, “You’ll get over it” (big smile). Obituaries are for the living, who will miss your touch, warm heart, hugs, laughter, “colorful” conversations, unique sense of humor, outspoken wit, wisdom, and charm all your own. I know your spirit will help heal our hearts as we grieve. Especially Greg (Trish) and Joel (Shelly) who couldn’t be here; your road tripping, and drag racing brothers will miss their chief Land Rover pilot and pit crewman, and also Terry (Tiffany) and Doug to visit the next day.  

Lee McCown, 75, peacefully transitioned home Sept. 10, 2023, following a lengthy battle with metastatic bladder cancer and myasthenia gravis brought on by one of his cancer treatments. He was born to W. Paul and Marian Carey McCown on Oct. 15, 1947, in Clinton, Illinois. At the age of 12, his family moved to Tinley Park, Illinois. Following his graduation from Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Illinois, in 1966, Lee attended Southern Illinois University and traveled in Europe for a short time before answering the military draft call in 1968. He fulfilled his lifelong dream to learn to fly by being selected for the Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate/helicopter training school program, graduating in 1969 at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He deployed to Vietnam, served with distinction, and was awarded the Bronze Star.

In 1971, Lee was shot down during Operation Lam Son 719, and heroically managed to save his crew. Even so, he loved flying, where he felt closest to God, and was certainly in His hands that day. After the war, Lee stayed in the Army for five more years, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in South Korea. After leaving active duty in 1977, Lee continued serving in the Army Reserves earning the rank of CW4.

His service record includes: Forts Jackson, and Gordon (BCT/AIT); Forts Wolters and Rucker;  24th Inf Div, Ft. Riley, Kansas; 210th Cbt Avn Bn, Long Thanh, Vietnam; 25th Corps Avn Co, Plantation, Vietnam; 173rd Assault Hel Co, Dong Ha, Vietnam; 1/17th Cav, Fort Bragg, North Carolina;  USC, Los Angeles, California; 3rd AVN Det Korea; 82nd Avn Bn, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina; the Army Reserve 321st Med Detachment, and the Army 96th Reserve Command, Salt Lake City, Utah.  

He entered federal civil service, working as an occupational safety and health specialist at Tooele Army Depot, Utah; Dugway Proving Ground, Utah; Fort Shafter, Hawaii; Johnston Atoll, Fort Rucker, Alabama; and earned his degree in business management at Troy State University.  

At Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, Lee managed the testing of state-of-the-art ammunitions, protective clothing and other materiel supporting our troops. In 1985, Lee served as Safety Manager for the building and operations of the Army’s first full-scale toxic chemical weapons disposal facility on Johnston Atoll. Recently married, the two-year unaccompanied tour was the hardest part, but daily phone calls with Robyn on Oahu, Hawaii, helped. Being state-of-the-art, many bugs needed to be worked out from blueprint to as-built design, addressing a myriad of complex systems to ensure safe operations, also requiring extensive research and decisions where no guidance existed. This was a critical job, as Lee’s work on Johnston Atoll set the stage for other facilities to follow. Returning to his flight school stomping ground, he served at the US Army Safety Center, Ft. Rucker, Alabama, a field operating agency of the Pentagon Safety Office, where he managed, wrote, and published all army safety regulations and other accident prevention publications for soldiers and civilians worldwide. He also served on the worldwide rapid-response accident investigations team to determine causes for future accident prevention.

At the 96th US Army Reserve Regional Support Command, he served as the first Safety Manager, where he created and managed safety programs for the region including Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. His expertise was beyond compare, and his career unique, serving in operations where, “it hadn’t been done before,” and breaking new ground with the latest, cutting-edge technology and program improvements for both military and civilians. 

Retiring with 40 years of service, he continued his service volunteering at the Veterans Counseling Center, supporting veteran counselors and service members who walked in the door. With his brilliant gift, he was able to minister in ways counselors legally could not. Many came to see him, just to sit and talk, even without a counseling appointment. He often gave out his cell phone number to be there for his brothers and sisters 24/7. After hours, he’d visit vets in crisis, even at 2 a.m., to listen and know they were not alone, then ensured they got the professional help they needed. Yes, it was against the rules, but that never stopped him. Anyone who knew Lee knew he’d find a way to do what was needed. He did things his way, no one could curb that maverick style; it started when he was a kid, just ask his brother Patrick! When intuition and God whispered, he listened.     

In recognition of his 13 years of volunteer service, Lee was awarded a coin from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Denis R. McDonough, and honored again on April 20, 2023, at the Volunteer luncheon at Fort Douglas, as his health started to decline. He touched so many lives, and his love for others blessed everyone he met.  

In his final days, weary from valiantly fighting cancer, Lee asked… “What is my mission now?” Greg’s tribute poem answered, while you waited for Jon, on a red-eye flight from Tennessee. You took your last breath, escorted home by “brothers” Jon and Jeff holding your hands. Wheeled away in a flag-draped carrier, the VA hospital staff played Taps with hand over their hearts, and Jon gave a final salute to honor his passing. Greg, John, and Jeff helped him know his next mission… to fearlessly conduct recon for us on his spiritual journey… to love, watch over, and protect all of us until we meet again.   

Lee is survived by Robyn soulmate/partner for life; Trish (ex-wife/first soulmate), and Greg (Trish) best friend for life; daughter Heather (Lopatin) Slaymaker, two grandsons he is so proud of Preston (US Marine) and Gabriel; brother Patrick (Donna) McCown, and was preceded in death by his loving parents Paul and Marian McCown, and brother Michael. He will be dearly missed by family, friends, co-workers over the years, and the many people he helped at the VA Vet Counseling Center. Lee, we all love and miss you, till we meet again…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>