Posted On: April 25, 2020
Curtis “Curt” Bowers started his military career as an enlisted man in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. While in Germany, he was introduced to Christ and became a Christian, influenced by the example and support of the Nazarene Chaplain H.J. Van Vouce. After one tour, Curt left the military to attend college and seminary while pastoring a Methodist Church. It wasn’t long before Curt felt the call to re-join military service and become a chaplain in the U.S. Army. His first assignment was in Fort Huachuca, Arizona and his overseas assignments included Germany, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. While in Vietnam, he was assigned to the 101 Airborne Division.
Pistol-Packing and Grenade-Toting?
It was (and still is) unusual to see Chaplains carrying a weapon. Many times, Chaplain Bowers was asked why he carried a pistol and a grenade. In addition to the fact that in Vietnam if Chaplains were captured, they often times did not survive, he would reply, “I don’t want to be a drag when the going is hot and heavy. I ought to be able to earn my own keep with these men…I would only use these things in self-defense—My job is to save souls and not to take lives.”
Curt was asked very revealing and probing questions by the men he worked with day in and day out. For example, one asked, “How can I, as a Christian, take another person’s life?” His very astute answer was:
“God calls us to be a strong and God-fearing nation; therefore, we have a responsibility to be our brother’s keeper and to carry the torch of freedom around the world because we believe in human rights and a just and enduring peace for everybody. Religious freedom and human rights would be the first to vanish, and not just for us but for the whole world, if we didn’t defend them.”
Practice What You Preach
“But Chaplain,” some men countered, “the Bible says to ‘Turn the other cheek’ (Matthew 5:39) and ‘He who takes the sword will perish by the sword’ (Matthew 26:52).” Bowers explained:
“To turn the other cheek refers to the individual attitude that a soldier had. A person can sacrifice himself but not others. There is a vast difference between turning the other cheek because we are reluctant to stand for a cause or principle or to protect a loved one or a neighbor and turning the other cheek in love and self-denial. The same Jesus who said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ reminded His disciples, ‘I am come not to bring peace but a sword,’ implying that to do what was right will sometimes cause conflict… The Bible doesn’t expressly forbid the believer from engaging in war, nor does it direct him into combat.”
Curt Bowers did not just “preach” his beliefs but also lived them. February 7, 1966, the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry, was ordered to assault positions of automatic weapons across an open field in the vicinity of the village of My Canh, Phu Yen Province, Vietnam resulting in two men killed and 11 wounded.
2nd Lt. Dennis R. Foley, recalls:
“While under intense automatic weapons fire, Chaplain Bowers crawled out to the dead and wounded and began to evacuate the casualties to a safe position. He made thirteen trips across sixty meters (197 feet) of open field and returned dragging the casualties to a medical evacuation LZ (Landing Zone). During this extraction, Chaplain Bowers repeatedly exposed himself to the automatic weapons fire and did so with complete disregard for his own safety. He placed himself between the enemy and the friendly casualties in order to prevent them from being again wounded by shrapnel and flying debris. After successfully recovering the dead and wounded, he then organized a triage and prepared for medical evacuation. During the evacuation by helicopters, the LZ was under constant small arms and 50 caliber machine gunfire. He continued to expose himself until all casualties were safely removed from the area. Chaplain Bowers was directly responsible for saving the lives of eleven wounded men of the Tiger Force.”
The day was also Chaplain Curt Bower’s 33rd birthday. He was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery.
Chaplain Bowers had many close calls. Once, when conducting services for about 100 men and singing the final closing hymn, sniper fire rang out. During the second stanza, tracers and bullets began flying over the rubber trees. Chaplain Bowers remarked, “They didn’t drag out the hymn!” All the soldiers remained calm and no one ran for cover! He continued with a hurried benediction then shouted to the men, “You better get your guns.” When telling of the experience, he would remark laughing, “All you could see were their heels and soles as they took off to get their weapons.”
God Closing One Door And Opening Another
Curt was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as his last duty assignment before retirement. It was there that General Norman Schwarzkopf selected him to direct the entire religious program at Fort Stewart and where he became close friends with the Schwarzkopf family. Curt wrote, “It was a challenge to serve as his staff chaplain, responsible for the entire religious program of his installation. He was a faithful supporter of the chaplains. He and his family were in chapel frequently, giving attendance at our chapels a boost by his personal example.”
Curt retired from active military service as a Colonel at Fort Stewart in 1986, after 23 years. At his retirement, he stated, “I thank God for my association with General Schwarzkopf. I sincerely think that if you were to ask him about the amazing victory in Desert Storm, he would say it was more than superior technology, training, and strategy. He would say it was because of the prayers of people around the world.”
Bower’s awards include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with First Oak Cluster, Air Medal with First Oak Leaf Cluster, and Senior Parachutist Badge.
On April 15, 2020, Chaplain Bowers, now living in Nampa, Idaho, was asked what he thought of the COVID-19 Pandemic. He said, “I feel through it all God will do something great and bring more people to Him.”
The Warhawk Air Museum has more information on Chaplain Curt Bowers (Exhibit 124 in the Second Hanger) and many other incredible, inspirational stories.
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