Rowan, an Elmhurst native, serves as the national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). He founded Chapter 32 of the VVA back in 1981.
“We would never have even thought anything like this was possible,” he said about the memorial. “Vietnam veterans, at that point in time, were not too well thought of.”
Rowan enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1965. After learning Indonesian and Vietnamese, he served as a linguist and provided intelligence to Strategic Air Command to protect bombing missions.
Since he was honorably discharged, he has become a leading national advocate for veterans.
But for Rowan, it all comes back to Queens, where he served as the district manager for his local community board.
“This memorial is an embodiment of Queens County,” he said, noting the diversity of the borough. “When the monument will be completed and you get to see all the names on there, you’re going to see every group you can think of.
“It’ll be forever etched in stone in this park,” he said. “Their families and grandkids and great-grandchildren will be able to come here and honor them.”
Rowan said Elmhurst Park was the best spot for the memorial because it’s new, centrally located in the borough, and had the space for the monument.
“It took a lot of years, almost ten,” he said. We’re glad we’re on a path to getting it completed.”
His organization continues to advocate for veterans on a variety of issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mental health and health care. For now, he’s just glad the memorial is coming.
“We finally did it,” he said.