During a ceremony held Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Ramada Inn in Bangor, Cynthia Cowling of Bangor was recognized for her military service and for her involvement with the Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The event took place during the VFW’s and auxiliary’s fall conference.
Peter Ogden, director of the Bureau of Veterans’ Services, presented Cowling with the Maine Women Veterans Medal, two citations from Gov. Paul LePage, and a letter from Maine First Lady Ann LePage “thanking me for my [military] service,” Cowling said.
Cowling is currently the Ladies Auxiliary state president, a position that she will hold until June 2013. A member of VFW Post 4633 Whitcomb-Baker in Hampden, she joined the Ladies Auxiliary almost 28 years ago.
Active in Army Junior ROTC while attending Bangor High School, Cowling graduated from there in 1971. “I was the first girl at Bangor High School to receive the varsity ‘B’ letter for [her] rifle team [participation],” she recalled.
She spent 8½ years in the Army; her assignments included officers’ records specialist and assistant NCO club manager. “Mine was the last graduating Women’s Army Corps class,” Cowling said, pointing out that women had far fewer career opportunities in the military 35-40 years ago.
“Women were not given the respect they are given now,” said Cowling, who left the Army as a staff sergeant.
She remains dedicated to veterans. “It’s very important the people understand the sacrifice that veterans have made,” she said. When Cowling was elected to the Ladies Auxiliary presidency earlier this year, she adopted as her theme the phrase “Bear it for our veterans so we never forget.”
Cowling participates in every parade possible and usually marches with Post 4633 members. “It brings tears to my eyes when people applaud as the veterans go by,” she said. “I remember watching people salute us; that was an honor.
“I believe in honoring the veterans for serving our country,” Cowling said. Included among her family members who have done so are her father, Paul Colburn, an Army veteran of the Pacific Theater during World War II, and her husband, Gary Cowling, who served in the Navy and the Air Force.
Cowling encourages younger veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to consider joining the VFW. “We are trying to hard to get them to join,” she said. “The VFW is for all veterans of all wars.”