An Intimate Ceremony Saluting A Veteran

Navy Radioman First Class Jim Cowan, shortly after joining the service in 1942 (left). Peggy and Jim Cowan at home in Phoenix (right).
Nick Blumberg
By Nick Blumberg
November 11, 2011

PHOENIX -- Veteran Jim Cowan was a Navy radioman first class. He joined the military after Pearl Harbor and served in China during World War II.

"I was in Naval Intelligence, copying the Japanese code," Cowan said. "A lot of it had to do with ships at sea. The information we had was very current. Right off the top."

Cowan and his wife Peggy live in Phoenix. Now 87, he’s cared for by Hospice of the Valley (HOV). Last month, HOV performed a ceremony at his apartment, honoring his service. It is designed to provide special recognition and support to older veterans. They also get a pin.

Cowan told stories of his time in the Navy tracking Japanese ships, and how he often kept himself entertained on slow days by memorizing words out of the dictionary. The ceremony was performed by Tom Fenner, HOV’s military liaison.

Fenner stood at attention before Cowan.

"Thank you for all you’ve done for the United States," Fenner said, saluting. "We truly appreciate it very much."

A faint smile appeared on Cowan's face as he said "You bet" and returned the salute.

Like Cowan, Fenner is also a Navy veteran.

"When a number of us came back from Vietnam, we didn’t really want to be known as a veteran. We just kind of hid," Fenner said. "And now, being older, it’s my way of being able to give back, and to honor those that came before me."

As the ceremony concluded, Fenner handed Jim Cowan a small Navy flag.

“I’ve got one eye I don’t see out of too well, and it makes me miss a lot of things," Cowan said. "But I don’t want to miss this."