O.C. Fowler is a highly decorated Navy Veteran who joined the USO in 2012. He’s volunteered with several local projects including the support of deploying and re-deploying troops at Hunter Army Airfield. This year he has been voted Veteran of the Year by the Veterans Council of Chatham County in addition to being inducted into the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame. He will be leading this year’s Veterans Day parade along with Grand Marshal Jim Grismer.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi Texas where my father was a Navy flight instructor and we traveled extensively as a Navy family before settling in San Diego. I graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and from there I was accepted into Navy flight training in Pensacola.
My first duty station was in Adak Alaska as a SAR pilot. I did that for eight years before volunteering for Vietnam. In Vietnam, I flew Navy Huey gunships as part of the Brown-Water Navy supporting patrol river boats in addition to working with the Seals.
After serving in Vietnam, I went back to San Diego for a couple of years and took out a detachment on a USNS Chauvenet survey ship off South Korea and when that tour finished up I went back to Pensacola to work as a flight instructor. I am also a graduate of the Naval War College in Newport Rhode Island.
I am a husband and a father to one daughter and I’ve been married to my wife for 46 years. We relocated to Savannah in 1984 and I became the executive officer at the Naval ROTC at Savannah State University. I also worked as the Landfill Administrator for the City of Savannah and retired in 2011.
What made you decide to join the military?
Well I’m from a Navy family. My father was killed in a plane crash during the Korean War and I’ve always been passionate about serving our country. My brother was a Navy Pilot and two of my brother-in-laws were as well. We were all actually stationed together at one point in time in San Diego, but at separate squadrons.
You’ve traveled all around the world. Is there a specific place that you’ve visited that stands out to you?
I went on a couple of USO tours and on one of them we anchored off Alexandria Egypt and toured Cairo. We saw the pyramids, the museum and the sphinx which was really cool. Another USO tour we anchored off the west coast of Italy and saw Pisa. Those definitely stand out for me and I always took my camera with me!
Veterans Council of Chatham County has awarded you Veteran of the Year and Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame will be inducting you soon. What does it mean to you to be receiving those awards?
Well it’s funny because I found out about both of them within two days and I’m still grinning from ear to ear. There was no other nomination this year for Veteran of the Year. It was a unanimous decision made by the council. That’s huge. With that award, I represent all of the other Veteran units and personnel so it’s a great honor and a privilege.
I was just as shocked when I received the call about being inducted into the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame! They have different categories and I’m being inducted for my service in Vietnam.
Tell us about some of your work with local Veteran groups
I am president of the Savannah Council of the Navy League and USO Team Leader at Hunter Army Airfield. I’m also a Life Member of the American Legion Post 135, Veterans Foreign Wars Post 660 and board member, and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 167. It means a lot to me to be a part of organizations with fellow Veterans because it’s a brotherhood and we all understand each other and what we’ve been through. I will always do anything I can to help.
Do you still keep in touch with anyone you served with?
We have reunions every two years. In 2016 I actually brought the reunion here to the DeSoto and everyone that attended absolutely loved Savannah. I think we had about 400 people in attendance and it was fun to be able to bring the group here.
What’s your favorite thing about the city?
I love to walk downtown and look up at the buildings above. I love all the old architecture and Savannah is just a great walking town.
What are some of your side hobbies?
I’m a car guy. I was the president of the Dixieland Cruisers Car Club of Savannah for a total of six years. It’s fun to go cruising and right now I’m driving my father’s old 1959 Ford Ranchero. I also have a 1968 Mustang Fastback and my step fathers old 1955 Thunderbird which needs a lot of work. I’m hoping to eventually make it into a parade car.
I’m also a do-it-yourself kinda guy. I’ve laid blocks and electrical stuff all around my house. I enjoy doing projects but my wife doesn’t want me on the roof anymore!
In addition to receiving the local and state awards this year, here are the decorations Fowler has received from the military: Distinguished Flying Cross, Gold Star in lieu of 2nd Award, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, 3 Single Action and 27 Strike Flight Air Medals with Combat “V”, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Rescue Pins from Kaman and Sikorsky helicopter manufacturers