Imagine you’ve filled out the paperwork to retire from your job after two-plus decades and your colleagues decide to throw you a party you will never forget. That was what happened to a former FBI agent at his farewell celebration last Friday.
All Troy Sowers had asked for was donuts and coffee, and he expected nothing more.
During a slideshow, the anecdotal retelling of how he saved the life of newborn baby Stewart Rembert some 22 years prior turned into the highlight of his career.
Retiring Knoxville FBI agent reunited with newborn, now a Marine, he rescued 22 years ago https://t.co/Mqhp45YoPs
— knoxnews (@knoxnews) August 9, 2019
As a photo of Rembert, the baby whose life Sowers had saved, appeared onscreen during a short slideshow, Sowers never imagined what would happen next. Rembert, now a 22-year-old U.S. Marine Corporal, strode into the room and gave the biggest hug to the man who saved his life.
“Completely surprised they pulled this off,” Sowers said on Friday. “I did not know it at all. I’d wanted something very simple. I asked for coffee and donuts and they shocked me … [It was] probably one of the best surprises I’ve ever had.”
In a reunion years in the making, a U.S. Marine met the FBI agent who saved his life over two decades ago.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 9, 2019
Rembert’s life began in August 1997 when he was born at the St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, Washington. Two days later, he was torn from his parents and forced into a near-death situation. On that day, exhausted with postpartum recovery, Rembert’s mother, Melida Coen, was approached by a woman posing as a nurse, who took the baby away to the nursery so the mother could get some rest.
The woman took Rembert from the hospital, and during a 3 a.m. routine check, a nurse noticed the baby was missing, triggering a search. A team of 30 investigators, including Sowers, were assigned to the kidnapping case.
At the time, Sowers was a 28-year-old rookie on the job, who had graduated from the FBI academy just two months prior to the incident. The case, being one of his first, made a lasting impression.
— Inside Edition (@InsideEdition) August 12, 2019
The investigation team sprang into action, and the media reports helped to spread the information. A woman shoplifting baby’s clothing while carrying a baby flagged suspicion in an employee at Lakewood Fred Meyer. The employee called 911, and investigators searched the house of the suspect, whose stepdaughter broke down and told them that she knew where the baby was.
The suspect had panicked when she saw the news and left the baby in a cardboard box in a dumpster behind a store. The team rushed to the location described by the stepdaughter, crossing their fingers and hoping that nothing had happened to the baby.
Luckily, when Sowers picked Rembert up out of the box, he was unharmed. After a 19-hour adrenaline rush of an ordeal, the baby was finally safe with his parents.
FBI agent’s surprise as he’s reunited with a kidnapped newborn he rescued from next to a dumpster 22 years ago https://t.co/Ej3KIvc0Uw
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) August 11, 2019
“This is what I came to the FBI for, to do good things like this,” Sowers said on Friday. “We had found him, he was alive, he was going to be returned to his parents. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Growing up in a family in which serving the military has been a tradition, Rembert headed to the Marines straight out of high school. When Sowers’s colleagues contacted him to make a special appearance at his retirement party at Knoxville, Tennessee, Rembert didn’t hesitate one bit.
“It’s crazy to think that without his efforts, I wouldn’t even be here today,” Rembert told NBC News just before the two met. “I wouldn’t be a Marine. My family wouldn’t be the same … I’m just super excited and honored to meet this man today.”
At his retirement ceremony yesterday, outgoing @FBIKnoxville Special Agent in Charge Troy Sowers was able to meet U.S. Marine Cpl. Stewart Rembert, who he recovered as an infant following a 1997 kidnapping in Washington state. https://t.co/L1A7N9ypyB pic.twitter.com/IHix2VzRnf
— FBI Las Vegas (@FBILasVegas) August 10, 2019
When the time came for Rembert to meet Sowers, the two eagerly shook hands and hugged amidst the applause of everyone else in the room. “This wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t find me,” he said, according to WBIR-TV. “I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity of a life and being able to put on this uniform every day and be proud of what I do.”
Sowers was very proud to learn about Rembert’s service in the Marines and told him to “continue to pay it forward,” and “do good for others.” To Sowers, it was the “perfect bookend,” and the best “final touch to a career.”
During his retirement ceremony today, SAC Troy Sowers of FBI Knoxville reunited with U.S. Marine Cpl. Stewart Rembert, a man he rescued as a baby following a kidnapping in 1997.
Posted by FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday, August 9, 2019