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Brothers to be honored with road markers

The memory of two Jackson County brothers killed in Vietnam will be preserved by road markers near where they grew up in the Applegate Valley.

The Rowden family twice suffered immense heartbreak during the Vietnam War, becoming the first of four double Gold Star families in Oregon, and one of 39 nationwide.

In March 1966 and again in February 1968, Harvey and Grace Rowden lost a son as the war escalated following the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Their son Marine Corps Pvt. James Herbert Rowden, 21, was killed in combat March 5, 1966, near Quang Ngai. He was the father of two and the first serviceman from Jackson County to die in the war.

Less than two years later, the second of four brothers, Marine Corps Pvt. John Wayne Rowden, 21, was killed Feb. 10, while on an operation near Thua Thien. He had gone “to settle a score” for his fallen brother.

Spurred by the Vietnam Veterans of America Committee on Memorials and Remembrance, the Oregon Legislature has adopted resolutions to honor the sons of the four double Gold Star families by designating four roads as Fallen Hero Memorial Highways.

Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, introduced a House Concurrent Resolution honoring the Rowden brothers, clearing the way for signs to be placed on Highway 238 near the Rowdens' boyhood home.

The two signs, made by the state Transportation Department, cost $600 each, said Stephen L. Bates, the committee's chairman.

"ODOT developed the design two years ago so that all of its Fallen Hero Memorial signs will look exactly the same," he said. "Right now, we need to raise money for the signs. Once the money is in the bank, we can order the signs and arrange for the signs to be put up."

Bates said his first choice is by milepost 26.

"It's sort of curvy there," he said. "The hope is that they will be at the same point facing both ways, symbolic of brothers standing together."

In May 2016, the Wright family of Boring was honored with a Fallen Hero Memorial Highway sign on Highway 26, honoring Marine Pvt. George Nathan Wright, who died May 21, 1967, and his brother Army Spc. James Alfred Wright, killed May 31, 1969.

ODOT is ordering signs for the Johnson family brothers of Lincoln County with signs on Highway 20 near the Toledo turnoff, and the Evans family brothers in Klamath County with signs on the Crater Lake Parkway Highway 39.

People wishing to contribute to the project can send checks to: Boring Oregon Foundation, Fallen Hero Memorial Highway Fund, P.O. Box 1448, Boring, OR 97009

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

James Herbert Rowden
John Wayne Rowden