News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 27, 2014

Raising honor

Ceremony honors Fowler Park namesake on 49th anniversary of death in Vietnam

TERRE HAUTE — The United States flag waved in the wind at the entrance of one Vigo County park, as citizens honored one man’s ultimate sacrifice.

A small group of people watched when three individuals unfolded the U.S. flag and raised it during a brief ceremony at Fowler Park on Sunday to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the death of its namesake, Capt. Eugene R. Fowler. The same flag flew over the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 24, 2013, on behalf of Fowler.

Before the flag was raised, Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department Supt. Kara Kish welcomed all attendees and said a few words about Fowler and the flag.

“In the honor of Captain Eugene R. Fowler,” Kish said, “we raise this flag today.”

Capt. Eugene Russell Fowler was the first man from Vigo County to lose his life in the Vietnam War, according to the Vigo County government website. Born on March 16, 1931, military records list Terre Haute as his hometown. According to files kept at the Vigo County Historical Society and Museum, Fowler was a graduate of Honey Creek High School.

Fowler served in the U.S. Army during the American involvement with the Vietnam War, which started in the mid-1950s and ended in the mid-1970s.

While serving in Vietnam, more specifically at the south end of the country in Southeast Asia, Fowler was killed on April 27, 1965, because of an explosive device. He was 34.

He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and he is honored at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

When asked what she learned from Fowler’s life, Kish simply said, “honor.”

Two years after his death, the first Vigo County park — Fowler Park — was established when the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Board purchased 140 acres of land in the area from the Peabody Coal Company. The park currently extends over 463 acres and includes the Fowler Park Pioneer Village, Ruble Lake, campgrounds, shelters, playgrounds, trails, beachfront and the Fowler Park Wilderness Area.

A monument also exists at the entrance of Fowler Park as a tribute not only to Fowler but also to all those who have served the country.

In raising the flag, Kish was assisted by two Vigo County citizens, Neil Nelson and Gene Griffin.

Nelson, who described himself as a frequent user of the park’s facilities, said that after doing research about Fowler, he contacted U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, of Indiana, who helped facilitate having the flag flown over the Capitol on Fowler’s behalf. He said he simply wanted to honor Fowler’s sacrifice.

“This is a memorial for the fact that he gave his life,” Nelson said. “We need to remember those who gave their lives.”

Kish said she received two flags from Nelson, and both flew over the Capitol. The other flag will be raised next year to mark the 50th anniversary of Fowler’s death.

 Soon, another man who made the ultimate sacrifice will be honored at Fowler Park. Kish said that planning is underway to convert the wilderness area of the park to a 300-acre mountain bike park in honor of Gene Griffin’s son, Sgt. Dale Russell Griffin, who died in Afghanistan in 2009. The “Griffin Bike Park” will honor Sgt. Griffin’s memory and organizers hope to complete it by fall 2015.

“Dale swam out here, camped out here,” Griffin said. “He always had a great love for the park.”

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@ tribstar.com.

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