These pages (section) are dedicated in love, honor, & respect of our brothers who somehow returned from the war but have since gone ahead to secure that final LZ on our behalf. I would invite each of you with something to add to submit both pictures & text for consideration to be added here -- multiple submissions/entires may be accomodated.
| JOHN ROWLAND
With the premature death of John Rowland, the nation, the Army, and our Special Operations community have lost a genuine hero and a first-rate combat soldier. It is my honor to say that he was my comrade in arms during two tours, and a good friend.
John was a great American, a genuine hero who lived by the slogan “Duty, Honor, Country.” Even in elite volunteer units full of superb soldiers and other heroes, John stood out by virtue of his accomplishments, capabilities, and his confident, aggressive leadership. Suffice it to say that John did his duty in many hot spots both overt and covert, in peace and war.
John Rowland was a fugitive from the law of averages who was filled with the natural exuberance of having lived through his experiences and that exuberance affected his personality and every aspect of his life. Young Rowland had loud, aggressive confidence and kick-ass leadership in spades. I don’t think he was afraid of the Devil himself. Right or wrong, John always called everything like he saw it and he didn’t stutter when he called it. His troops loved him and would have followed him anywhere. About 40 years ago when his body was still young and strong he could back up all the stories which had sprung up about him. In recent years John suffered from the effects of his multiple wounds and his considerable PTSD and his hard life style and he lost about ninety pounds and got so thin and crippled that he could barely walk. John hated being confined to that thin and crippled body in which he had become trapped.
I was shocked to see him one morning at our 2000 reunion in Savannah, drinking heavily at about ten AM when he was suffering from bleeding ulcers and diabetes. He had been hospitalized several weeks prior for extreme bleeding from the ulcers. They saved him that time but it was a near thing. The grim statistics on bleeding ulcers are that something like 75% of the second bleedouts are fatal - and everyone knew that he wasn’t supposed to drink at all, not even a drop. He offered me one. When I told him it was too early for me to start, why if I had a drink I might start singing and nobody would want that, he got up and put his arms around me and started to cry. Then he said, “I love you, man.” I had to choke back my own tears then because several things hit me at once in a blinding flash of the obvious: my friend was dying and he knew it and was saying goodbye to me from his heart; and that he was deliberately not doing those things which were necessary to prolong his life. After making them both promise that, absolutely without fail, John would check himself into depot-level maintenance at the VA Hospital and get a total rebuild, we both left Savannah. It wasn’t long after that until Carol called and told me, “John is so happy. He ordered a brand new set of dress blues and medals and has hung them in the closet wrapped in plastic.” At that point I don’t know if Carol had caught on yet, but to me the whole picture was clear as crystal. John’s weekly phone calls to me set a pattern: he would be drinking heavy and he would reminisce again about our “good old days” together and always, always lie to me about how swell he was doing. I’m convinced that he kept himself alive only by strength of will just long enough to attend this last round of reunions and to see all his old comrades in arms just one more time. Sure enough, he looked worse than I’ve ever seen him in Columbus, GA in July 2002. I was heartsick. I waited for the phone call which would tell me that John had passed on and I can tell you from memory that on Saturday, August 31st at 0632 hours Pacific time, sure enough Carol made that call.
From John’s initial tour in an elite and classified Military Intelligence unit, gathering intell on Communists in East Germany during the early sixties, John went to Vietnam where he served multiple tours in reconnaissance and infantry units. Although he earned a direct commission in 1970 for his heroism as a LRRP Sergeant under fire the complete and total truth of John’s heroic service to America over most of three decades will probably never be known. You may have heard that while serving as a Lieutenant during the invasion of Cambodia, he earned the Distinguished Service Cross in a fierce battle during which he was wounded twice, early, and his understrength platoon slugged it out toe-to-toe for two more days against numerically superior enemy forces firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. You can read the citation when we post it on the LRRP web site. You may not know of the circumstances behind his other awards, or that John was wounded about 15 times by enemy fire and MEDEVAC’ed out four times during his career. In typical hardheaded Rowland fashion, each time he was wounded he refused evacuation and continued to fight and direct the combat effort until he was convinced that he had done his duty and that the men under his command who were depending upon him for leadership and superior tactics and making it back safely were as safe as he could make them.
He might have exhibited a tough exterior to the outside world, but my assessment is that in his heart he was always thinking of others, witness the delayed MEDEVAC’s. When his wife Carol told me how he died, I immediately recognized his last actions as a typical Rowland trick. Carol said that on Saturday his last day here with us, John had fallen, and when she came to assist him in getting up, he told her that he was OK, he just wanted to rest a bit on the floor no problem, she should please go and take care of other things and after a while, then she could stop back by and help him up. Then, as she was turning away, he said, “I love you, Carol, you are the best thing that ever happened to me." I am convinced he knew that his time here was finally at an end, and he sent Carol away so she wouldn’t have to watch him die. When my time has come, I hope I will have enough class to do the same.
If I were in a hell of a tough spot and wanted to get out of it, the young John Rowland is one of the guys I would want right there with me. And I know that John would come running to whatever tough spot I was in without hesitation, loaded for bear with all the right stuff and wearing a smile a mile wide at the prospect of mixing it up with America’s enemies. Some one who quite obviously knew the deal remarked that all combat veterans are living on borrowed time, moving toward the final objective. As you might expect from a Duty-Honor-Country guy like John, he’s now out front “kicking point” for the rest of us. John will live forever in my finest memories as he was, young and strong and laughing at danger.
In my dreams I see John Rowland now, manning a distant OP, forever young and smiling, with all our fallen comrades gathered around him. John will have occupied a superb defensive position with excellent observation and fields of fire. He will have everything reconned, indirect fire and air strikes laid on and will have several missions already planned out in his head. He will reach down into a waterproof bag full of ice and offer me a cold beer obtained from God-knows-where. He will flash his trademark smile at me and his first words will be, “We’ve been waiting for you, old man. What took you so long?”