Earlier this week I attended the funeral of William "Grady" Rowe. Grady, ten years my junior, reported into my National Guard unit as a brand new officer in the late 1970s. A graduate of Marion Institute and of Jacksonville State (where he was a great linebacker), he wanted to join Special Forces. It did not take long for all of us to realize he was a very special person. Intelligent and strong, he was a natural leader to whom all the men gravitated. He would take on any job, no matter how distasteful, and get it done properly. Furthermore, such was his ability to motive the men through humor and a great attitude, everyone would be smiling and enjoying themselves even under the worst circumstances. He listened and learned as well, becoming highly competent. As the company commander I gave him the toughest missions, having full confidence he would succeed.
During this time he met and married his wife Gloria and became a math teacher and football coach at Elmore County High School. Together they raised two sons, and he rose to become the athletic director as well as math teacher.
Unfortunately he caught a mysterious virus while deployed in Panama, and the sickness diverted him from the path to higher rank in the National Guard, although he continued to serve, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. I fully believe he would have commanded the Special forces Group and would now be a general officer had he not been so debilitated by the sickness he could not deploy.
Last Monday Grady died of a massive heart attack. The entire community turned out for the visitation and the funeral--the high school shut down at noon so the students could attend the funeral and a great many did. His National Guard buddies attended from all over the state in spite of the weather. We all recognized our tremendous loss--I personally have never met a man I've thought as highly of. You were the best, Grady. De Oppresso Liber!