Dr. James Bowen has finally been reunited with decorations that honor his courageous service in the Vietnam War as the pilot of a Cobra (attack helicopter) Gunship.
In May, the former Marco Island resident received 11 of the 43 medals he earned while flying an average of six missions a day in 1970 and 1971 as a Chief Warrant Officer Two in the U.S. Army. Among them were one of the two Silver Stars Bowen earned. The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration for valor awarded to members of America’s armed forces.
The missing medals were presented at the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), who represents Narragansett, R.I., where Bowen and his wife Donna now live. The semi-retired veterinarian and Rhode Island native requested Langevin’s assistance in obtaining the decorations from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
“Some disappeared between Vietnam and my arrival here in Rhode Island,” after leaving the service, explained Bowen. “I let that go at the time and didn’t think of it much, but recently I decided I’d like to have those medals.”
He is the former owner and veterinarian at the Island Animal Hospital on Marco, which he opened in 2002 and operated until 2015, before selling the practice and moving to Jupiter, Fl, where the Bowens lived before again becoming full-time Rhode Island residents.
He’d made the request expecting the entire matter to be strictly under-the-radar. Instead, Rep. Langevin asked him to stop by his office to pick them up.
“I thought it would be a simple thing where he’d get the medals and send them to me in the mail, but as it turned out, there was a big presentation ceremony in his office,” said Bowen, who was joined at the ceremony by his wife and their daughter, Ashley Bowen. “I guess there were 30 or 40 people there. It was nice. I enjoyed it.”
Langevin lauded Bowen for his service and bravery in a story announcing the presentation of the medals posted on the Representative’s website.
“I was proud to help obtain CW2 Bowen’s military decorations from the National Personnel Records Center to properly commemorate his incredible service to our nation,” stated Langevin.
The medals he presented to Bowen included:
- Silver Star
- Distinguished Flying Cross and Oak Leaf Cluster Bronze (Double)
- Bronze Star
- Air Medal & Oak Leaf Cluster Bronze Large
- Army Commendation Medal
- National Defense Service Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal & Bronze Star Attachment (Triple)
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon w/ Device (1960)
- Expert Badge & Rifle Bar
- Sharpshooter Badge & Auto Rifle Bar & Pistol Bar
- Army Aviator Basic Badge
The Silver Star was one of two that Bowen earned for his actions during combat. In total, he received 37 air medals and three Distinquished Flying Crosses.
“I can think back to Vietnam and a lot of the medals that I was awarded, I just have vague memories of the action that occurred,” he said. “But there are other medals, like the Silver Stars that I won; those memories will be with me forever. They involved some very difficult circumstances and at the time, I was a 21year-old warrant officer, pilot and I was willing, basically, to do anything for the well-being of my troops on the ground who would depend on people like me, flying the Cobra gunships to save them because we could put ordinance down within 50 feet of friendly positions.”
Bowen had nightmares while in Vietnam were centered on not being able to save his fellow soldiers. But, fortunately, that never occurred.
“I was always able to get there in time and do what I needed to do; I and my flight team,” he said.