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Birdwells' Bio
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Lt. Col. Brian and Mel Birdwell



Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell and his wife, Mel, are both survivors of the terrorists’ attacks on September 11, 2001.  After hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 collided into the Pentagon, Brian was thrown to the ground and engulfed in flames.  Of the burns that consumed 60 percent of his body, nearly half were third degree.  While Brian was fighting for his life and undergoing 30+ surgeries, intensive skin grafts and unbearably painful burn treatments, Mel was fighting to maintain the couple’s faith and their family.  Brian and Mel, along with their son, remained solid in their spiritual convictions and integrity throughout this incredibly difficult ordeal.  Together, they communicate a compelling message of enduring hope, unwavering faith, undying patriotism, and unconditional love.


Lt. Col. Brian D. Birdwell is a native of Fort Worth, Texas, and a 1984 graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.  Graduating as the Distinguished Military Student through the Army ROTC, he continued his service in the United States Army at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  After subsequently serving in South Korea for 18 months, Birdwell returned to the States and met his future wife, Mel.


Originally from Davis, Oklahoma, Melva Collins first spotted Brian Birdwell, a handsome 1st Lieutenant, in her brother-in-law’s military yearbook.  She corresponded with Brian for several months while he was in South Korea, and after his return to the States, he and Melva kept in contact by phone.  The long-distance relationship became a face-to-face romance in 1986.  They married in May of 1987.


In 1989, The Birdwells moved with their new son, Matthew, to the Army base in Kitzingen, Germany.  While stationed in Germany, Brian was deployed for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and earned the Bronze Star for his action in the Gulf War.  Mel, meanwhile, volunteered with the American Red Cross and was employed as its installation volunteer coordinator until June 1993.


After Mel and Brian returned to the U.S. from Germany, Mel graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Services from Kansas State University and became coordinator for the senior nutrition programs for Leavenworth County, Kansas.  When the Birdwells subsequently moved to Ft. Lewis, Washington in 1997, Mel served as the congregate meal site manager for the senior nutrition program run by the American Red Cross in Pierce County, Washington.


In 1996, while assigned to duty at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Brian completed his Master’s degree at the University of Missouri.  In 1998, he also helped lead the Joint Task Force in support of relief operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.  At the time of the attack, Birdwell was serving on the Department of the Army staff at the Pentagon as the Executive Officer to the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management.  He was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received on September 11, 2001.  He continues to serve in the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management.


Today, Mel fulfills her greatest calling yet – that of being a stay-at-home mom.  She also enjoys volunteering.  In June of 2002, Mel was presented with the fourth annual Robertson McQuilkin Award for Commitment to Marriage by FamilyLife, an international family outreach organization at work in over 100 countries.  She was honored for her strong devotion to her 16-year marriage and for her dedication to seeing her husband’s health fully restored.


The Birdwells currently reside in Manassas, Virginia, with 14-year-old Matthew and a golden retriever, Hayley.



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