WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Kansas man retired from the Marine Corp. after Vietnam. He then joined another branch of the military. 

From the time he was young, Terry Gowen loved the military. After playing basketball For a junior college In Nebraska, he joined the Marines In 1973. after completing Advanced Individual Training, he shipped off with the 3rd Marine Division to Okinawa as part of an expeditionary force. 

“I was a 1st battalion, 4th marines, and our platoon was called suicide charlie,” said Gowen. 

Gowen’s platoon lying in wait on ships off the coast of Vietnam…flown out on helicopters whenever And wherever they were needed.

“We would fly into like an LZ, a helicopter would land, there times when we’d, they had tall elephant grass, elephant grass is like tall cane, and we thought that they were on the ground, and when it comes down and when they’re shooting at you, you’re jumping off that thing as fast as you can, and we, maybe four or five feet off the ground, and we would just fall, fall on each other,” said Gowen. 

His platoon created perimeters around troops directly fighting the Viet Cong. Living up to their Suicide Charlie nickname. 

“They call these guys crazy men. They’re suicide charlie ‘cuz they didn’t think they would live through it, and they did, and they were some really tough, tough Marines,” said Gowen. 

Tough Marines came back home not to a hero’s welcome but to widespread protests. 

“The Green Peace people…were throwing paint balloons at us, red paint balloons at us because we were baby killers and all this other stuff,” said Gowen. 

After Vietnam, Gowen decided to leave the Marines, but his military career was far from over. 

“Started working at the municipal airport in lincoln, and they had all these airplanes flying in, navy, marines air force….and I talked to these people, and I says, geez, I wanna fly, I wanna work on airplanes, and the guy says, well, sure you can,” said Gowen. 

Gowen became a jet mechanic for the Navy, working On F-4s, A-7s, and dozens Of P-3s. 

“I took care of every instrument and electronic gizmo on that airplane … they were big four-engine turboprop airplanes, and we’d go out over the ocean and hunt Russian submarines, and at that time, there were a lot of Russian submarines off our coast … you’d get out there and it just, thousands of hours of sheer boredom interrupted by moments of not terror, but excitement. ‘Oh my God, we got somebody,’ and the whole thing and everybody wakes up,” said Gowen. 

In 1981, The Navy came out with a program to turn enlisted sailors into pilots. 

“A lot of the regular commissioned officers who were pilots were going to the airlines, and so they were short of pilots,” said Gowen. 

After completing Flight School, Gowen became a limited duty officer, taking on a number of Jobs. He instructed pilots in Corpus Christi.

“I taught basic flying, I taught instrument flying, I taught acrobatics, I taught formation flying, we, the whole thing,” said Gowen. 

He even operated an airfield in Japan. 

“It was about the size of our airfield here at McConnell…we carried 85 airplanes,” said Gowen. 

Gowen would be promoted five more times before retiring after 24 years in the Military. 

“There’s so many times I got shot at, bad situations, very hairy, but the adventure that, the comradery you have when you deal with the military, these guys overseas and stuff that they do, it’s amazing,” said Gowen. 

Gowen is currently helping convert a former school board building into the brand-new American Legion Post 408. You can find out how to help by visiting their website.


If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at hannah.adamson@ksn.com.