It was 1960 and we were headed for Cleveland, Ohio, my dad’s next tour of duty, after two years in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. I ended up going to college and working as a surveyor while Charles Karwan was finishing high school and thinking about enlisting in the Army. I became familiar with Cleveland’s Polish neighborhood where Karwan was born in the mid-1940s. We may have even gone to the same parties, but our paths didn’t cross until 30 years later when we reminisced about those good ol’ days.
It was during the 1990s and after having not only read about Karwan, but also having read many of his writings, I had recently taken over a column he gave up to pursue new opportunities. I don’t remember where we met, but we hit it off immediately and the conversation soon turned to Karwan’s roots in Cleveland where we found we had not only that small portion of our lives in common, but so much more. While I went into law enforcement, Chuck began his military career.
Graduating from West Point Academy in 1969, Karwan earned a bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in military science/weapons design. Upon graduating, Karwan immediately volunteered for duty in Vietnam and en route graduated from Airborne School & Jungle Operations Training in Panama. Shortly thereafter, he graduated from the US Army Ranger School, and he later graduated from the US Special Forces Officers Course as well as the Infantry Officer’s Advanced Course in firearms.
Karwan served nine years active duty in Special Forces with 5th Group (ABN) and 10th Group. He served as Company Commander during a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam where he received the Bronze Star Medal for Valor and was also a qualified expert with virtually all US military small arms and was also an expert with edged weapons. However, these weren’t Karwan’s only military achievements. Karwan was five-time All Service Wrestling Champion and later served as Assistant Wrestling Coach for the American Team during the 1984 Olympics.
Leaving the Army in 1978 with the rank of Captain, Karwan began a 30-year writing career where he was read by millions in nearly a dozen major firearms magazines, as well as consulting on a number of books about firearms, tactics, hunting, etc.
The first time I met Karwan there was no doubt he was the real thing. Warm and friendly, deep down he was a warrior and all who knew him were impressed with his vast knowledge of firearms, history and more. The only time I saw Karwan near the end of his rope was when he and his wife were having difficulty adopting a young girl. Karwan was not only a great man but also a wonderful, caring human being. Everything fell into place and Karwan often spoke proudly of this daughter and his other kids.
However, time was not on Karwan’s side and, in late 2007, he confided in me that his health was deteriorating and that his doctor had given him stern advice. Along with others, I begged him to do everything possible to improve his health. He was in good spirits and he said he was going to do it. A few months later I saw Karwan at the 2008 SHOT Show and he seemed tired.
I asked him about his progress and he said he was doing his best. I gave him another pep talk and told him I’d lost too many friends and not to give up, but I feared the worst. Following successful open-heart surgery in August, Karwan died of a massive heart attack in the VA Hospital in Roseburg, Oregon, on September 8, 2008. He is survived by his wife, Frances, and children Kate, Kerry, Jake, and Jenn.
And so, Karwan gave back the little piece of life he borrowed, of which he had made so much. He was loved by many and will be missed by us for the rest of our lives. But while we will mourn Karwan’s passing, we must rejoice at his coming. For what if he had never come at all? For more information on Chuck Karwan, please visit a special website at www.chuckkarwan.com.
It was 1960 and we were headed for Cleveland, Ohio, my dad’s next tour…
by Dan Goodwin / Feb 12, 2009