was 1941, just months before the attack on Pear Harbor thrust the
United States into the throes of World War II, when young Jack
Cowley first raised his hand in Quincy, Mass. and committed to serve
his country as a United States Marine. He wanted to travel and, at
17, was anxious to commence his adult life. Above all, young Cowley
was driven to be Semper Fidelis, and the years since are testament
to his achievement of loyalty to country and lifelong service.
Cowley served valiantly as a member of the Marine Corp in the
Pacific Theatre and at the famed Guadalcanal campaign, the first
major offensive and a decisive victory for the Allies in the South
Pacific. The island was also where, during a small engagement near
the Matanikau River seven weeks after the initial landings, Coast
Guard Signalman First Class Douglas Munro, died while rescuing a
large stranded group of Marines under enemy fire near the river.
Although Cowley was not personally serving at that location during
the three-month-long battle, he knew well of Munro’s sacrifice and
of his posthumous Medal of Honor, the United States' highest
military award. Monroe is the only member of the Coast Guard to
receive the Medal of Honor and it seems fitting that he earned it
for rescuing Cowley’s Marine Corps brothers.
Cowley served in
the Marines throughout the entirety of WWII and until 1947.
Following his enlistment, he returned home to Massachusetts, yet his
commitment to serve was far from over. He joined the police force,
and Cowley along with his wife Virginia, opened Nether-Lair Kennels.
In the decades that followed they expanded their kennel to serve
both law enforcement and the community; training dogs for show, as
well as offering specialized training of police dogs for law
enforcement units throughout New England. Cowley was instrumental in
developing the K-9 corps program for the city of Boston and the
Massachusetts State Police. In 1984 Cowley retired from the K-9
unit, then completely from Wrentham Police and Fire in 1989 at the
age of 65. A few years later he sold the kennel, and moved full-time
to Cape Cod so he could spend more time in his retirement boating
off the coast of New England.
His former work with K-9 units
tracked lost and missing persons, and after his retirement from the
K-9 force, he parlayed that service into Coast Guard Auxiliary work,
supporting a service that finds and rescues people in trouble on the
water. Cowley initially joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary in 1986
when he bought his boat and started to spend more time on the water.
When he was twice retired at 65, he made his voluntary Coast Guard
Auxiliary work his “full-time” job. He continued to conduct patrols
for Group Woods Hole/Sector Southeastern New England in his boat,
Spindrift, until 2006 and was even given a small dedicated office in
the building, as he was a reliable fixture at Coast Guard Station
Woods Hole in Massachusetts for decades.
In January, Cowley was honored for his lifelong service at a
Coast Guard Auxiliary retirement ceremony at Station Woods Hole.
“I was told to show up for regular Thursday Quarters in ODUs
[Operational Dress Uniform] the week after my end of tour,” Cowley
explained. “ I expected the Captain to say a few words about Papa
Jack but was overwhelmed when I glanced at the man next to me in
formation; it was my Marine brother, Everett from Connecticut. The
ceremony also included many old friends from all over New England.”
Cowley’s family, friends, and shipmates had all gathered at the
station to wish “Papa Jack” fair winds and following seas. During
the ceremony, Captain Schultz, Commander of Sector Southeastern New
England, awarded Cowley the Coast Guard Auxiliary Achievement Medal
for his 30 years of honorable volunteer service in the Auxiliary.
February 4, 2017 - “Papa Jack” Cowley, a 30-year veteran of the
Coast Guard Auxiliary, stands in font of the national ensign as
Coast Guardsmen prepare to raise the flag in Woods Hole, MA. The
station’s flagpole was erected because of Cowley’s initiative and is
dedicated to him, as written on the plaque, “for his selfless and
zealous service to Group Woods Hole.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)
Though retired three times over, his commitment to our
country continues to fly high each morning at Station Woods
Hole. The station’s flagpole was erected because of him and
was dedicated to him as he personally oversaw the daily flag
raising and formal morning colors during his time at Station
Woods Hole. The ensign of our country has evolved over the
years from the 48-star flag Cowley saluted in WWII to the
standard we honor today. Old Glory has truly become the
symbol of his life of expanding service. Displaying
never-ending loyalty, Papa Jack still carries American flags
around with him in a red bag with a marine emblem ironed on
“Once a marine, always a marine,” Cowley
courage, and commitment, at 92 he still chooses to use a
large portion of his social security check each month to
purchase and distribute American flags when he sees a
tattered flag atop a flagpole or simply a face that needs a
smile. To date, he has purchased and distributed more than
1,800 flags. Along with each box containing a flag, he also
includes a copy of the constitution, a card of gratitude,
and a reminder:
“Everyday that you can wake up free,
it’s going to be a great day.”
Note: Article retitled from "Rise Up!"
for listing at USA Patriotism!
By U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone
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