Honor flight for local vet
May 13, 2015 | 7383 views | 0 0 comments | 201 201 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Doyle Rowley at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.  Courtesy photo
Doyle Rowley at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. Courtesy photo
Honor flight for local vet
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by Terri Winder

The year was 1944. Doyle Benson Rowley was 17 years old and a new graduate of Parowan High School. Though he had enjoyed the relative safety of living in Utah, the shadow of World War II had loomed over his teenage years, especially since the Pearl Harbor bombing two and a half years earlier. 

It was expected that most of the boys in his graduating class would enter the military; the only real question is which branch of service they would join.

Rowley chose the Navy, enlisting right after graduation. He passed the “Eddy Test,” which made him eligible for the Armed Forces Electronics Training Program and allowed him to enter as Seaman First Class, a rank above most graduates of basic training.

He was sworn in at the Federal Building in Salt Lake City and then sent by train to the U.S. Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, IL. After boot camp he was assigned to a month long pre-radio school in Chicago and then to a 16-week Electrician’s Mate School. 

During the 16th week he became ill and was sent to sick bay.  He was there when his classmates were sent to the Pacific Fleet.  Rowley was sent to New York City and became a member of the crew of the USS O’Toole, Destroyer Escort 527, which soon picked up a convoy that was headed to Oran, Algeria.

He served on this ship until the end of the war, in 1945. After it was decommissioned he was transferred to Guam and assigned to a mine sweeper which eventually sailed to Terminal Island, CA.  After a couple of months Rowley was sent to Camp Shumaker, California and given an honorable discharge on April 19, 1946.

While the ships he served on filled important roles in the war effort, Rowley never saw combat, unlike two of his classmates, who were killed in battle.

Grateful to be counted among the survivors, Rowley returned home to Utah and enrolled in college.  After graduating from BYU he accepted a faculty position at Monticello HIgh School, teaching math and science.

Not long after arriving in Monticello, he met Marilyn Redd and took her to the Stake Gold and Green Ball for their first date. That was the beginning of a love story that soon included four children.

Fast forward to Friday, May 8, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the day Germany unconditionally surrendered to Allied Forces. Doyle Rowley, now 88 years old, was in Washington, D.C., accompanied by his firstborn daughter, Celia Baker.

He is one of fifty Utah World War II veterans to participate in the first of this year’s Utah Honor Flights: a trip to the nation’s capitol to see the National World War II Memorial, built in commemoration of the veteran’s service and sacrifice.

Consisting of 56 pillars and a pair of 43’ tall triumphal arches surrounding a plaza and fountain, the memorial is located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Each pillar is inscribed with the name of one of the 48 U.S. states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The arches are at opposite ends, one inscribed with Pacific and the other with Atlantic, representing the two theatres of the war.

Scenes depicting war experiences are etched along two walls, beginning with servicemen getting physical exams and taking the oath, to combat scenes and burying the dead, to end of war and homecoming scenes. The memorial also includes two small “Kilroy was here” engravings, a symbol commonly used by American soldiers.

On the west side of the memorial is the Freedom Wall, which has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. On the wall is the message, “Here we mark the price of freedom.”

Funded largely by private donations, the monument was dedicated and opened to the public in April, 2004. Also funded by private donations, the first Honor Flight took place in May 2005, when six small planes flew 12 veterans to Washington.

From that small start, the program grew nationwide and, consequently, tens of thousands of World War II veterans have been able to visit the monument. Recently, as part of a Sterling Scholar service project, Monticello High School student Bailey Goodwine helped raise money to donate to the Honor Flight organization.

The day the Utah group of veterans flew to Washington, they participated in an early morning  send-off ceremony at the Utah State Park, where Major General Jefferson S. Burton addressed them before the Patriot Guard Riders of Utah escorted them to the airport. Utah National Guard members and bagpipe players were part of the ceremony.  

Upon their return, Saturday evening, they enjoyed a Hero’s Welcome Home Celebration, where they were greeted by Paula Stephenson, Commander of Utah’s American Legion, and  presented with a WWII photo book and a folded American Flag. The flags were conferred by Boy Scout Troop 125 from Springville, UT, as part of an Eagle Scout project.

Before leaving for Washington, Mr. Rowley visited Lynda Boyle’s American history class at Monticello High School, regaling the students with wartime stories about conditions on both the homefront and abroad, even singing a few songs from that era.

World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, involving over 100 million people from 30 countries and--including civilian casualties--costing an estimated 73 million lives.

Commonly referred to as the Greatest Generation, World War II veterans not only protected mainland America from foreign invasion and helped secure world peace, they ushered in a time of national prosperity, blessing the lives of subsequent generations.

Doyle Rowley’s return trip culminated in a hometown hero’s welcome, as family and community members gathered to honor him Sunday afternoon.
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