Bobby Sowell - Military Service Page - Vietnam Vet
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Memories of a

Sgt Sowell, USAF

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Actual Medals awarded

War Souvenirs - Money Bills and Coin = $1.06 US - An actual cigarette pack that Bobby opened and smoked, ulk...

1968 News Paper Article

In 1966, a young thin 18 year old Bobby won the Mid-South Fair Youth Talent Show and was awaiting an earned TV appearance on the popular CBS show, "Original Amateur Hour," hosted by Ted Mack. (The equivalent of today's American Idol.) However, that date never arrived due to the fact that 2 years later while still waiting, Bobby was drafted into the military service. He was scheduled to report to Ft Campbell, KY for Basic Training but joined the Air Force a day earlier, thanks to a recruiter who got him into a new special program designed for overweight and underweight men (guess which one he was?), who the Army would take when the other branches of service wouldn't due to higher weight standards. So, Bobby shipped out to West Texas for his special training that lasted for 10 weeks. After completion of that training he was then allowed to enter Basic Training at Amarillo AFB, TX for an additional 6 weeks. Apparently his earlier special training paid off. He demonstrated excellence in all phases of academic and military training and finished highest in his graduation class, earning the USAF BMT Honor Graduate Award Ribbon. He quickly rose to Barracks Chief and a Yellow Rope. *Notice in the above Basic Training graduation picture (1st row standing, 7th to the right) that Bobby has something on his sleeve that no other Training Recruit had? A stripe. His hard training and wiliness to make the best of a bad situation paid off.

For his war efforts, willing or unwilling, Sergeant Sowell earned 12 ribbons and 7 medals. Decorations included the Air Force Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Vietnam Veterans Medal, Cold War Victory Medal, Outstanding Unit Award, Organization Excellence Award, Longevity Service Award, Presidential Unit Citation and Commander's Award for Public Service.

Yes, Bobby experienced war at it's worse, lost buddies and often wondered why he was spared? Guess you could call it survivor's guilt. He was around agent orange and highly suspects that his diabetes and bout with alcoholism derived from the whole damn Vietnam experience. Bobby Sowell was supposed to have become an entertainer instead of being drafted and going off to a war. In addition to the medals, Bobby also won numerous talent shows and often went TDY playing music. In 1972, he took top honors in the AFSC Talent Contest and the USAF Worldwide Competition and performed TDY at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas along with such stars as Goldee Hawn, Dick Van Dick, BB King, Jan Murray and Jimmy Durante.

Oh well, in the course of human events, destinies do get altered, suspended or even changed forever. Looking back on that experience Bobby says he has mixed emotions. He was glad he served his country but felt because of it, he missed out on once in a life time opportunities. He is sure it altered his course.

Related Awards

Upon discharge from the Air Force, like a lot of unemployed musicians and in between playing gigs, Bobby had to get a job to support his alcohol addiction while continuing to seek a music career. Where else could he turn to other than employment on a military installation? So, he went to work at the Naval Air Station near his Memphis home in Millington, TN. Unfortunately, the drinking got the best of him and any obtainable goals had to be put on hold. He finally did get help for his alcohol addiction and right up to the present time, vigorously maintains his sobriety. While employed as a civilian at the Navy Base, time went on and before you knew it and under an unusual circumstance (thanks to President Clinton's Base closures), Bobby had enough time to take an early retirement. He retired on Jan 3, 1996 and finally became the full time musician that he always wanted to be.

Foot Note: This page is dedicated to Bobby's four beloved children who all but one ironically were born on US holidays. Sherry Ann of Jacksonville, FL, born DEC 14 and from Niagara Falls, Ont Canada: Amanda Marie, born Memorial Day 1980, Robert Lee II born Father's Day 1981 and Christopher Michael born Veteran's Day 1984.

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Bobby, USAF Photo Jan 7, 1969

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