Learning To Be A Soldier. The WWII Veteran Essay Example
They are referred to as the Greatest Generation in American history. They are the 16 million men and women who boldly served our military in World War II. By the age of 18, this generation would not only survive the Great Depression, but would be called upon to serve as soldiers to defend the United States of America after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A soldier’s commitment is an unrivaled force of nature, and we can all learn much from the way they have lived their lives. One such life was that of Major Kenneth A. Rowe.
Kenneth A. Rowe enlisted in the military in 1942 right after completing high school. He served in the Army Air Forces in the 854th Bomb Squadron of the 491st Bomb Group. The first test of his commitment came on December 4, 1944 when his B-24 bomber was shot down during the Battle of the Bulge. He became alarmed but not to the point of giving up. He continued flying B-24 bombers in World War II until his plane was shot down again on February 9, 1945. But, this time, he would become a prisoner of war after hiding under a bridge and later, in a haystack, for three days, with a fractured ankle.
As a prisoner, Major Rowe was taken to a Luftwaffe-run camp called Stalag VII-A. The weather was extremely cold, and he only received one blanket and a wooden shelf to sleep on. He learned to sleep with another prisoner for survival, sharing blankets and body heat. Two months later, the Germans decided to force march their prisoners to relocate their camp to Moosburg, which was more than 138 miles away. Prisoners were told they would be killed if they did not march or if they got off path.
One would have thought that, after suffering a fractured ankle, becoming a prisoner of war for more than 80 days, and forced to march, Major Rowe would have given up his will and desire to serve his country. But, no, he did not. After liberation from Moosburg in May 1945, Major Rowe spent 90 days in a hospital, fighting hepatitis and malnutrition. He was then given the opportunity to leave the military, in which he responded, “They weren’t going to run this boy out.” [Rowe Collection, 2002] Major Rowe continued serving our country for 19 more years, which included serving in the Korean War. This is a stark reminder that we should all be strong enough to recognize that our scars remind us of where we have been; they do not have to dictate where we are going.
After retiring from the USAF, Major Rowe accepted a position with the Commonwealth of Virginia, flying state-owned aircraft for the next 30 years. In 1984, he became the Director of the Department of Aviation under Governor Charles S. Robb’s administration. Major Rowe passed away on July 29, 2012 at the age of 87, but not before receiving numerous awards for his valor, including: Purple Heart, POW Medal, and the Virginia Aviation Lifetime Achievement Award. Major Rowe’s like exemplifies that so much of what is the best of us, as human beings, is our fortitude as it measures our sense of stability and loyalty.
None of us can build without tools, and tools are passed down to us by others. Events like World War II should cause each of us to stop and take stock of our lives to measure who we are and what we’ve become. As a member of the Zoomer generation, I don’t have all those answers for myself. Yet, I know I will continue to use the tools passed down by our veterans in making improved life decisions, decisions that help leave behind a more prosperous world than the one I found.
Finally, I would like to mention that selecting just one World War II veteran to write about was the most difficult part of this essay submission. I have read and listened to numerous World War II veteran stories. Every person who has served our country deserves to have an essay written about them; they deserve to have their stories told. If there is one area, they all have in common it is their love and commitment to our country. Their stories enrich our historical understanding of the realities of war across all generations and thus provide an uplifting framework for how we can build a better future, together, one day at a time.
Kenneth A. Rowe Collection (AFC/2001/001/02051), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, May 8, 2002.
Rose, Major Kenneth A. Cadets to Capture and Beyond, World War II Round Table of Central Virginia, http://www.majorkennethrowe.org, retrieved October 3, 2020.
Royde-Smith, John Graham. World War II (1939-1945), Encyclopaedia Britannica, London, https://www.britannica.com/event/World-War-II September 10, 2020.