Cowan served with 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam
Note: This article appeared in the Nov. 4 edition of the “Redstone Rocket.” This article was written by “Redstone Rocket” editor Skip Vaughn and reprinted by permission. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MADISON – Looking back on his military service, Jerry Cowan believes “good soldiers go where you’re supposed to and do what you’re told to do.”
When he was 19 years old, Cowan was assigned to a helicopter unit at Camp Evans in Vietnam in January 1969. Cowan served in Vietnam until January 1970 with 158th Aviation Battalion formed at Fort Carson, Colo.
This remote base was located 30 miles north of Hue and about 20 miles from the Demilitarized Zone. He primarily filled sandbags, performed guard duty and other assignments, while dodging 122-mm rockets from the enemy.
“We had a lot of incoming,” he said. Cowan lost three good friends who were crew chiefs in Huey helicopters that got shot down in three separate incidents in February 1969.
Cowan saw more action there than at any time during his yearlong tour. “The other nine months went pretty well — nothing like the three months I was at Camp Evans,” Cowan said.
A Specialist Four, Cowan was promoted to Sergeant and then assigned to Hue and Phu Bai. He remained with the 101st Airborne Division but became a Technical Supply Sergeant. Six soldiers reported to him. Cowan’s role was ensuring the Chinook helicopters were ready to fly and to replace parts when necessary.
“We had infiltration of our perimeter lines a couple of nights while I was on guard duty,” Cowan said. “We were on full alert one night. We were expecting to get attacked. It rained all night on us.”
His commendations include Vietnam Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Bronze Star. He left the Army as a Sergeant.
“(Vietnam) was something, a bad experience, but I was just there to do my time,” Cowan said. “(Vietnam veterans) really haven’t gotten the credit that they’ve been due . . . They sacrificed their lives but didn’t get credit.”
A Decatur native, Cowan now lives in Madison. After 33 years at the job, he retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 2006.
Cowan has two sons: Jeremy of Moulton and Jason of Gardendale. His grandson Logan attends the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Cowan, 71, plays with Huntsville Senior Softball. Each week, he works at his 30-acre farm in Lawrence County.
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