“Our mothers and fathers were the greatest generation this country has ever seen. They made it through the Depression — no jobs, no food, no work — yet when our country was bombed at Pearl Harbor, the men and women of this country stood up, went to war, defeated not only the Japanese, but the Germans,” Rowe said. “ ... You are being taught today to thank the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice so today you can leave this building, you can get on a school bus, you can go home and not have that school bus blow up because of an enemy.
”You owe that thanks to these men and women who have fought for this country’s freedom — that’s called ‘patriotism.’”
She said she didn’t want to go into what she considered to be the horrors of war, but wanted to share a story of how servicemen and women helped save a life.
“My job in Vietnam was an Army nurse. I had the responsibility and the privilege to be the head nurse of the largest shock trauma triage emergency room in Vietnam,” Rowe said. “... I had eight helicopters coming my way with wounded on board. We were in the middle of the May Offensive and when you go into offensive mode ... you go into priority and priority is really simple — U.S. military first, U.S. civilians second, allies ... third, fourth [is] host country and last is host country civilians.
“The helicopter radioed into my radio room and he said ... [there is] an infant baby on board. Now, in the Army, my job was to do what the command said, but my mother said when my husband and I went to war, she said to me, ‘Donna, keep your faith and whatever you do, do what is right.’ The Army said no civilians because we were running low on supplies ... but I told my sergeant ... Third Field Hospital would receive.”
She was informed the baby was found in the arms of her dead mother, who had been killed along with the rest of the baby’s family. While rushing through the corridor of the hospital, Rowe asked the chaplain to baptize her with the name Kathleen.
The child, who has been referred to as “Baby Kathleen,” survived thanks to the efforts made by Rowe and those who worked alongside her. She was placed in a Catholic orphanage.
While working on “In the Shadow of the Blade,” released in 2004, Rowe shared the story of Baby Kathleen with the film’s producer. A few months later, the film’s director called Rowe and said Baby Kathleen came across a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiling Rowe.
“She had been adopted by a male Navy nurse who worked with the Marines. He could not let that baby stay in the orphanage after all that heroism that saved her life,” Rowe said. “They flew us all to Texas, we had the reunion and Baby Kathleen is now the mother of four children ..., they are living free in Danville, Calif., and the reason this story is so poignant and meaningful not only to me, but to the men and women I served with, is you see, when we came home from war we were spit on, we were called ‘baby killers.’ We couldn’t get jobs because we were Vietnam vets, people called us names — all because we served our country.
“Gen. Hal Moore says you can hate war, but you must love the American warrior.”
Principal Jeff Hogan told students it was important to recognize the veterans in attendance at the assembly as well as those who are no longer with us.
“... This group of ladies and gentlemen have given us the opportunity to be here today. If it wasn’t for people like them, and the people that came before them, we would not have this opportunity, we would not have the opportunity to live in the country we live in,” Hogan said.