Love of country blossoms into marriage for couple
When you pull up to Carl and Ashley Rowland’s home, it’s clear that a patriotic couple lives inside.
Three flags — American, Army and Prisoners of War — fly above their front porch at all times. Inside, curio cabinets filled with Army memorabilia line the walls of their living and dining rooms.
It is the home of two Iraq veterans who are proud of the service they’ve given their country.
Carl and Ashley met in September 2004 while training for their Army Reserve unit’s deployment to Iraq. The two became quick friends and then romantically involved during their time overseas.
The Rowlands served in the 189th Ordnance Company, based in St. Joseph, Mo., which supplied ammunition and bombs to U.S. Army units throughout Iraq.
They returned to the United States on Thanksgiving Day 2005, and married May 1, 2006.
But the time they spent serving their country as ammunition specialists — and falling in love — is not all the couple have in common.
Both say their primary reason for joining the Army stemmed from feelings that occurred after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Carl, who is a 2000 graduate of Bonner Springs High School, officially joined the Army on April 27, 2003.
Even though he had a brother who served in Desert Storm, he said he didn’t have a lot of contact with the military before joining. In fact, he wasn’t sure he’d even join until Sept. 11 changed everything.
“When 9/11 happened, I was sick to my stomach and angry at the same time,” he said. “It was more of a, ‘How could someone come here and do this to us? There was no need for that.’”
Through his “anger and disgust,” Carl said at that moment he knew giving a piece of his life to his country was the least he could do.
“I think everyone should do their part,” he said. “And I just felt that this was my part.”
Ashley, who is from Ripley, W.Va., said she remembered hearing about the Sept. 11 attacks while in her high school English class. She then joined the Army on March 25, 2002, the same year she graduated high school.
“Right after 9/11 I wanted to help serve and do my part,” she said. “I just felt like I needed to do my part and help out in whatever fashion I could.”
After the terrorist attacks, Ashley said you couldn’t find an American flag to purchase in her town because they’d all been purchased.
Carl said he felt the same overwhelming patriotism in his hometown after the attacks, but said it didn’t last long.
“The media stopped talking about 9/11 after 9/11,” Carl said. “It wasn’t on the news because they felt it was too disturbing.”
While their own patriotism is unwavering, both Carl and Ashley agreed that the reactions they received from people who find out they’re veterans is mixed.
Thankfully, Ashley said, they’ve had plenty of appreciative people make encouraging remarks.
“It feels nice to know people still care,” Carl said.
These days, Carl is a police officer for the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department. He was recently promoted to staff sergeant and was given his own platoon.
Ashley, who is a product service associate for Lowe’s, will most likely leave the Army when her service is up in March 2010. Even though she has exciting thoughts on her mind, such as eventually starting a family, she said her love for the Army and her country isn’t going anywhere.
The Rowlands are frequent shoppers at Military Memorabilia in Leavenworth.
“It’s just nice to be around other vets and share our stories,” Carl said. “Plus they have really cool jackets and patches.”