Honoring two of the few, the proud

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Lexington VA renames campus after Kentucky Marines

The memory of a pair of Iwo Jima veterans would already have lived on well beyond their passing, but the Lexington VA Medical Center has ensured the legacies of these native Kentuckians will indeed stand the test of time by dedicating its two buildings as the Troy E. Bowling and Franklin R. Sousley campuses in August.

DAV life member Troy E. Bowling. (Courtesy of Lexington Herald-Leader)

Bowling, who passed away in 2017, served with the 5th Marine Division during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was in one of the first waves of Marines and sailors who landed on the beaches and began the battle to climb Mount Suribachi. Before he reached the summit, enemy forces shot him in the chest and one leg.

In a 2014 interview, the past DAV department commander and volunteer recalled the moment when, severely wounded and presumed dead, he dedicated his life to service.

“I lay on the black sand of Iwo Jima, looked up at the heavens and said, ‘Get me out of here alive and I’ll serve mankind for the rest of my life,’” Bowling said.

He survived and upheld his end of the bargain, spending over 78,000 hours serving his fellow veterans at the Lexington VA. In 2005, he was named DAV’s George H. Seal Memorial Trophy recipient for top volunteer.

“Volunteering has saved my life,” Bowling said in a 2005 DAV Magazine article. “Working for others keeps me alive.”

In addition to volunteering his time helping veterans at the VA, Bowling began his service with DAV in 1961 and held positions from service officer to commander for the DAV Department of Kentucky, assisting veterans and families with filing claims.

“Troy Bowling is a tremendous example of the lifeblood of DAV,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “The thousands and thousands of hours Troy spent volunteering is truly a gift to veterans and families—and this is a fitting way to honor someone who gave so much of his life in service.”

Franklin R. Sousley

Fellow Marine Frank Sousley, for whom the hospital’s other building was named, not only fought on Iwo Jima but also is one of the six men in the iconic photo of the flag raising. He was killed a month later, toward the end of the battle.

The idea to rename the buildings after the Kentucky natives came from local area veterans. Congressman Andy Barr took up the cause and introduced the necessary legislation, which was signed into law by the president in March.

“The veterans of this community came to us with this idea and said we need to honor these two heroes, and we’re just so grateful we’re able to honor them in this way,” said Barr. “This is a proud day for two Kentucky heroes, and it’s a proud day for DAV.”