Four veterans from Jefferson City have been presented the Silver Star Banner in a ceremony at the Governor’s Office.
Governor Jay Nixon introduced the four men, saying he appreciated the opportunity to pay them the honor. They are Army veterans Don Hentges and David Mauldin and Marine veteran Roger Stottlemyer who all served in the Vietnam War, and Army Air Corps veteran Wilburn Rowden who served in World War II.
The Banner recognizes those who are wounded, injured or become ill in combat areas.
Stottlemyer, a former Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and current Executive Director of the State Gaming Commission, was wounded in 1969. Then a Corporal, he was walking in the lead of his company southwest of Danang, not far from his base. There, a boobytrapped grenade went off, wounding his leg.
Stottlemyer also has a Purple Heart for his service, and says the Banner means a lot and is a great honor. He also expressed pleasure at receiving it alongside three other veterans, noting the service of Rowden.
Sergeant 1st Class Rowden was a 21 year-old radio operator when his B-17 bomber, “Sleepytime Gal,” was shot down over Hanover, Germany. Two members of his crew died that night. He and the rest were captured by the German army and became Prisoners of War. Rowden was held for 13 months and 18 days.
Rowden and most of that crew bailed out of the plane while the pilot stayed aboard. He had given his parachute to the plane’s navigator whose own chute had been shredded by the German planes’ machine gun fire. The pilot survived crash-landing the Gal and also became a P.O.W.
AUDIO: Listen to Wilburn Rowden tell the story of the night his B-17 bomber was shot down over Germany – 3:11
Rowden says he did not know he had been wounded until he was on the ground. It was then that he noticed the sting and hurt, and saw blood running into his shoes and down his sleeves. When he saw German soldiers approaching, he sat on a tree stump and waited to be captured, knowing he could not run from them. One of first things those soldiers did, Rowden says, was a ration of candy he had stuck in his flight suit pocket.
AUDIO: Listen to Wilburn Rowden talk about being captured by German soldiers after parachuting from his bomber – 1:53
He spent time in multiple camps before being forced to march for 88 days and more than 500 miles to Bitterfeld, Germany, where he and thousands of others were handed over to American forces following the Nazi’s surrender.
Pictures of Rowden in World War II, as well as the Sleepytime Gal and two other retellings of the night she was shot down, here.
Rowden says receiving the Banner, the latest among several honors he has received for his service, was astonishing after all this time, but adds he will hold it dear.
Governor Nixon used the occasion to offer a reminder to Missourians to honor the service of the nation’s veterans on Veterans Day, Friday. See a video of the ceremony below: