From Alfred Rowe, 12/18/2001: ” The post card that your dad (Alvin C. Rowe) sent mom (Lily McClaskey Rowe) was taken at Fort Ord and was when your dad was doing his six months duty at Fort Ord. The line is to the barrack that he was living at. I was at the same place a year later doing the same thing only a couple of buildings away. The postmark tells you the date and also his serial number is ng //// and that means he is in the National Guard. He bought a gray dodge sedan and the engine went t u (sic). Then he enlisted in the regular army when he was in Germany. I was in basic. We joined the national guard when we were in high school. To get in the army with his (Alvin Rowe) feet the way they were he had to get in through the guard and then when he went regular army he had to sign a waiver so he couldn’t come back on the government for his feet. …I have it written down here that he loved the army so much that he went regular.
The paragraph above was written by my uncle in 2001. He was identifying as many unknown photos as he could that I had posted on my genealogy website. He was talking about himself, my father. He mentions my grandmother. On 20 May 1958, my father sent his mother a postcard photo of at least part of Fort Ord in California.
The bottom line here is that my dad was born with feet problems. A condition that is passed on because I inherited it. When he was a little boy he had surgery on both feet. If I recall properly (and I might not be) he had some bones fused or something like that. He wore braces for a long, long time from what I understand. I’ve never seen a photo of him in them though.
There were, at the time, actually, two things that should have (legally) kept my father out of the Army in 1958. One was his foot problem. The other was that it was against the law to admit anyone to serve in the military if they’d had Rheumatic fever as a child. Who knows if anyone at the time knew that there was a lawsuit waiting to happen. It never did though.
This was not the whole story that my Uncle told me. Evidently, my father was told that he’d have to prove himself in order to get into the Army while in high school. He worked hard to get there.
Now make no mistake my dad made a lot of mistakes in his life. As we all do. But, as far as I am concerned these are amongst some of the most admirable events in his life. He worked to get in. Having inherited his foot problem I am intimately aware of the pain he endured. There is not a day that goes by that my feet are not hurting. I’ve had jobs where I stood on my feet all day or even walked all day. At the end of the day, all I could do was fall into the bathtub and try to soak the pain away. BenGay has been my best friend for the majority of my life.
He went into the service, he survived those long marches and training that are required of every young man despite the pain in his feet. God only knows what long term symptoms lingered from the Rheumatic fever from childhood.
I do not know why my father wanted to join so badly. But, I know from life experience and hearing multiple stories over the years that some people join for economic reasons. Some just see life as being more financially secure this way. Some join because of the mystery, and the romance of the idea, some of them even hope it will attract the young ladies. Some young men join because they were raised by their families to believe it was their patriotic duty to do so. For them, it was just one phase in their lives to get through. Others joined because they honored their country that much. They wanted to be of service to their country and fellow citizens. Some of them even went in to help them complete their career choices.
My current husband joined for the last three reasons. He thought it was his duty based on what his family said while he was growing up. He honored his country and wanted to serve to protect his fellow human. By becoming an MP (Military Police) he hoped it would help spring him forward into a career of law enforcement in order to be of service to his fellow citizen.
Regardless of the reasons why either of them joined, the truth is that they did. Then they used that service to better their lives in the long run. After the Army, my father went to a technical college and learned how to be a Cement Mason. For as long as he worked that is what he did. Unfortunately, his heart had other ideas for him, and his life was cut short, he passed away at age 43. His heart weakened originally by the rheumatic fever, a smoking habit, and the standard American Diet all contributed to his death. More than likely genetics played a big part, as hypertension runs on that side of the family in a bad, bad way — and men for several generations died young on our Danish side of the family.
More than likely, my father gave the best parts of his life, when he was the strongest and most able to the United States of America. He spent time in Fort Ord and in Germany. He finished his tour. As a kid, I remember him joking about peeling a lot of potatoes. Said he was a cook in the Army, but peeling potatoes was a punishment. At this point in my life, I kind of doubt he was punished much for anything. The truth is Fort Ord is where the Army sent you if you were training to be a cook in the Army. He went on to also be an ammunition handler. He trained in Germany in the rain, snow, and other weather. I never once heard him speak ill of the experience. Never.
In what capacity can my father ever be referred to a loser or sucker when it comes to what was just read? There is no loser or sucker there. He thought about what he wanted, he worked for it, he got what he wanted, he kept up with his responsibilities and he was honorably discharged. What wear and tear did the experience take on his heart? How much did he really give to the country while he was doing that tour?
My husband’s father died at an even younger age than my father due to heart problems. From family history, it is really obvious that genetics is at play. My husband is now amongst the longest living males in the family. This at 57 years old. After his father passed away he and his brother were tested for cholesterol levels and were found to be extremely high even in their childhood. This realization began a series of monthly trips to Stanford University for the two boys where they were given all sorts of experimental drugs for lowering cholesterol. Sometimes it was a vaccine, sometimes it was pills, and other times it was a glass of chalky substance that they just had to chug down. Their mother was educated about diet, but in the 1970s and 1980’s not as much was known about diet as is known today. The diet did not work. He is probably one of the first people to ever be put on a statin, he was put on a Lipitor while young. So, when he went to join the service he found out that to enter one must not be on any sort of maintenance drug including cholesterol-lowering drugs. It’s probably a good thing he did not know me back then because I probably would have beat him over the head, but the young man made the decision to toss the medications, and join the Army. He ‘lost’ his eyeglasses around the same time, though it was after joining when they got in the way of his aim.
Clyde gave up those life and health saving drugs for nearly eight full years. In this time span, he did serve as Military Police. He did all the marches, physical ed, and from what it sounds like, endless paperwork as a Customs agent. He was in while three different military actions happened including the first Gulf War. He wanted to go to fight that one. But, much to his disappointment, he was left in Germany where he’d already been for over four years. He was part of the team that inspected the equipment moving from Iraq to the United States. Part of the job was to inspect tanks and make sure there was not one iota, not a speck of dirt on them that could transfer a germ, insect, or any other matter that could infect a person, or environment with anything dangerous to people, agriculture, etc. Someone had to do that. It wasn’t his dream job, but he did it. I’ve never heard him complain about that. Nor have I ever heard him complain about the 24-hour shifts he had to take while working as a “tower rat” in Germany. It was all pretty much part and parcel for the job. What I have heard complaints about was about the time he spent in Germany guarding chemical weapons that were made illegal by the Geneva Convention. The U.S.A by this point was hiding what they had. The “leakage” of the weapons was measured by the level of the chemical in the soldier’s blood. The doctor on the base drew the blood, got the results, and made two copies of the paperwork. One copy went on to the government. The other copy was locked in a safe in his office. Today, he wonders just how much the chemicals have hurt his health. It has stated it was never a choice. He was told he was going, and if he did not sign the release and go he’d be moved over to infantry.
Where is the loser or sucker there? These men and women give pieces of their lives to strangers. They are willing to die in order to defend a person’s right to freedom of speech, religion, peaceful protesting, legal immigration, etc., etc., etc.
I have a 2nd cousin who spent at least one tour in Vietnam. He eventually succumbed to cancer in later life. But, the war took a physical toll on him. My guess is that it took one hell of a mental toll as well, when you look at his personal life, he was married about 5 times. Yet, people in the family who knew him still talk positively about him and his character.
Losers and suckers do not willingly give of themselves for others in such major ways.
Members of the military no matter what state they are in: Active, Retired, Honorably Discharged, etc — All of them were serving an idea that was bigger than themselves or even their own local circumstances. These people are HERO’s. They join and face a grueling life while serving.
Instead of calling these HERO’s names, we all owe them a debt for being willing to protect us and our way of life. They deserve a thousand thank yous from each and every one of us.
Thank you to family members and all service members:
My husband, Clyde L Snyder
My paternal uncles:
- Marvin W Rowe, I – National Guard
- Alvin C Rowe – National Guard, US Army
- Richard L Rowe – United States Navy
Paternal cousin, Ronald Horton – US Army, Bronze Star, Vietnam
Great Great Grandfathers
Jesse F Jones, Union Army, Illinois
William Murphey, Union Army, Iowa, injured (badly) while a Prisoner of War. survived, Anderson Prisoner camp.
Alden B Rowe, Union Army, Maine, injured during a battle. (Probably Cedar Creek)
And so many more cousins (some who died in the line of duty), great grandfathers who served in Indian wars, revolutionary war, the Union Army, Confederate Army, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and other military actions.