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Colonel James Nicholas Rowe Building Dedication Ceremony: Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by LTG Michael T. Flynn, USA
May 2, 2014
Thank you all for being here. It is an honor for me to stand here before you today, and it is my personal privilege to preside over a ceremony that honors one of America’s great patriots and one of my personal heroes – Colonel James Nicholas Rowe.
I would like to extend a special welcome to COL Rowe’s family – Alex Rowe and fiancé Meredith, Christina Rowe and her sons James and Christopher, and Jane Rowe – as well as his West Point classmates Major Mike Eckmann and Colonel Richard Seaward and all those here with us today who had the privilege of serving alongside COL Nick Rowe.
As COL Rowe himself made clear throughout his career, service to God and country is a team effort. He made truly extraordinary contributions in service to this nation – during peacetime and war, at home and abroad – but no one reaches the impact or COL Nick Rowe’s level of accomplishment without support. His achievements and fortitude would not have been possible without the love and commitment of his family and friends, and you all share in his tremendous legacy and certainly in this celebration today. This nation and all the Americans who have benefitted from your sacrifice may never be able to repay you for what you’ve given up for this country – but know that we are eternally grateful.
Ladies and gentlemen – We are here today to honor a man who has left an indelible mark on our military and who is a constant inspiration to the brave men and women of our armed forces who are asked, every day, to do the impossible – and who, every day, step up to the challenge.
As anyone who has walked through the gates of Fort Bragg can attest, you can feel COL Nick Rowe’s enduring presence within its halls, its missions, and its soldiers. I remember hearing his story on my first assignment at the 82nd Airborne Division, and what struck me were the incredible – almost unbelievable – numbers that define his career:
– the number of months he endured torture, solitary confinement, and food deprivation at the hands of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.
– the square footage of the cage where he spent those 62 months of imprisonment.
– the number of his fellow POWs that succumbed to torture or were executed.
– the number of times COL Rowe attempted to escape before successfully breaking free on his fourth try, when he was on the way to his execution.
– the miles he had to travel back home after his rescue to his native Texas.
– the number of times he returned to Active Duty when called upon to serve.
– the number of soldiers who have completed the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape training (or SERE) that COL Rowe developed to teach future generations how to endure the unendurable – like he did – so they too could survive and return home.
– the miles he moved his family to take the helm of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group in the Phillipines, a job he knew was both challenging and dangerous.
– the number of shots that pierced COL Rowe’s armored vehicle when he was ambushed by terrorists in Manila.
– the anniversary of his death last week, on April 21st.
– the number of years of faithful, tireless, and extraordinary service to the nation, the U.S. Army, and his fellow man.
– the section of Arlington Cemetery where he is buried today.
Each of these numbers is powerful and impressive – but even if you added up, multiplied, and doubled the sum of all of these numbers, you still would not come close to understanding his enormous legacy.
COL Nick Rowe was a man who defied numbers. He was a man that defied the odds, defied all reasonable expectations, and defied any simple explanation.
He was the rare man who was not only greater than the sum of his achievements; he was a man who redefined how we thought of achievement in the first place.
For centuries, philosophers, leaders, and academics have tried to put into words the unique attributes that distinguish men like COL Nick Rowe, but no one person or one saying can really capture his singular accomplishments:
South African President Nelson Mandela once said, "Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one-armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end” – and this comes close to capturing the remarkable perseverance that enabled COL Rowe to prevail over the Viet Cong.
Famous poet Khalil Gibran also said, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars” – and this too comes close to describing the strength that gave COL Rowe the power to overcome adversity and then compelled him to teach his fellow soldiers how to be stronger as well.
But I think the most appropriate description of COL Nick Rowe’s true legacy comes from our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, who said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more – learn more – do more – and become more, you are a leader.”
COL Nick Rowe’s actions not only drove those around him to learn more, do more, and become more – his perseverance, sacrifice, commitment, and strength drove the military, the Intelligence Community, and our national security structure to do better, train better, and be better.
And that is why there is no better name for this national intelligence facility in support of our Defense Department than the James Nicholas Rowe Building. He symbolizes the ideal we must work toward as an agency and personifies the courage and commitment that our workforce must use as the standard for everything we do.
As both an intelligence and Special Forces professional, COL Nick Rowe also embodies the future of our work here at DIA – one where intelligence and operations are closely fused and inextricably linked. The nature of war is quickly evolving as both new and persistent crises, threats, and adversaries spread across the globe. Special Operations elements are now involved in almost every military action in almost every corner of the planet, and DIA’s support – both in analysis and collection – provides a vital foundation for their plans and decision-making. This dedication highlights how important it is that DIA continues to enhance that partnership and continues to provide our Special Operations Forces with the critical intelligence they need where and when they need it.
Finally, this dedication reminds us of one of DIA’s most important and enduring missions: finding and bringing back the American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action soldiers, sailors, Airmen, and Marines around the world that have not yet returned home. COL Nick Rowe was one of 721 Prisoners of War that returned alive from the Vietnam War, but there are still 1,648 American souls that remain unaccounted for – from that conflict and the conflicts since. DIA maintains a dedicated team of professionals that are solely focused on helping find these brave men and women, and the professionals that work in this building support this agency’s relentless, 24/7 effort to find these service members and safely return them home. Today’s dedication to COL Nick Rowe not only underscores the importance of this effort, it stands as a reminder that this job – sadly – is never done.
I hope that this facility lives up to the incredible legacy of its namesake and makes just as much of an impact on the warfighters it supports. I have no doubt that the men and women in this building have the dedication, talent, and skills necessary to live up to COL Rowe’s example.
I would like to end by highlighting one key provision of SERE’s code of conduct – the credo for the training program that COL Nick Rowe personally developed to equip our armed forces with the skills necessary to survive hostile environments.
SERE’s code has six key points addressing the need to preserve command, safeguard critical information, protect your fellow service member, and keep yourself safe – but the most enduring point of the code is its last one – a point I know was personally important to COL Rowe, and I hope becomes a rallying cry for those who work in the new James Nicholas Rowe building and DIA at large.
It reads, “I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”
This dedication makes clear that we will never forget the man who inspired us with his sacrifice; we will never forget the men and women who are in harm’s way around the world to protect this country and its citizens; and we will never forget how important our work is to keeping those brave souls safe and bringing them home.