Feb. 14 is St. Valentine’s Day, when many people take time to express their love and support for one another.

While Valentine’s Day may be considered a “commercial holiday” by some, there’s something to be said about its importance and the encouragement we receive from our support network.

Married Aug. 3, 1945

World War II Army Veteran Dr. J. Roy Rowland is a perfect example. He’s been an Eagle Scout, accomplished physician, state and federal congressman representing Georgia, and an author. Behind all these achievements is his wife and biggest supporter, Luella Rowland.

Luella caught Rowland’s eye while he was a junior in high school. After they met, through the help of a friend, Rowland would find any opportunity to spend time with Luella while enrolling in college and pursuing a medical degree.

Enlisted in the Army in 1944

War changed the trajectory of Rowland’s life when he enlisted into the Army in January 1944, a month before his 18th birthday. After completing training, Rowland traveled to Camp Bowie near Brownwood, Texas, where he was assigned to the 13th Armored Division.

During his time there, he knew he wanted to marry Luella and searched several jewelry stores for the perfect engagement ring.

“I found the perfect ring and it cost $100, a lot of money in 1944,” Rowland said. “The guys in my group thought I was crazy because I was flat broke. I mailed the ring to Luella, hoping she’d agree to spend her life with me.”

Not long after, the 13th Armored Division was on its way to France.

While serving in France, Rowland often wrote home to Luella and was often heartbroken when days would pass and he’d receive no correspondence. The mail would finally find Rowland and he’d receive several letters in a stack of mail from his dearest Luella.

Awarded Bronze Star for Valor

Rowland was still in combat where his senses were heightened from the fear of the unknown and unexpected. His unit was once assigned to take a boat across the Isar River and bring back troops from the other side who were dangerously close to the enemy.

Valentine's Day graphic

Searched several jewelry stores for the perfect ring

Rowland volunteered and partnered with a few others to make the journey. His efforts saved a couple of troops and he was awarded the Bronze Star medal for valor.

“Anyone who’s ever been in combat and said they weren’t scared are either crazy or lying,” he said.

After the surrender in Europe, Rowland’s unit redeployed back to the states and he received a 30-day furlough. He travelled home and married Luella on August 3, 1945. They spent their honeymoon in a Florida beach house.

Rowland was reassigned to Ft. McPhearson where he finished his enlistment as a sergeant in 1946.

“Whatever I wanted to do, she’d be behind me 100 percent,” Rowland said. “Luella has been with me every step of the way.”

The Rowlands have been married 76 years when Valentine’s Day arrives.

By James W. Huckfeldt is the deputy public affairs officer at the Carl Vinson VA in Dublin, GA

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Published on Feb. 14, 2022

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