The Palm Beach Daily News reports that local resident Dick Cowell was 18-years-old when he enlisted into the United States Marine Corps, back when World War II was in full swing. During his service Mr. Cowell was issued uniforms, equipment and a rifle. A Springfield Armory-made U.S. rifle, caliber .30, M1, serial number 3594593 to be exact.
The rifle, his sergeant told him, was now his girlfriend, his wife and his friend. The recruit had to take it everywhere, he was told. And he should never, ever call it a gun — unless he wanted to stand naked in front of his company. It was a mistake he only made once.
Mr. Cowell comes from a family of military men. His father served in The Great War and his great-grandfather fought in the Battle of Bull Run during the War between the States. While Mr. Cowell’s 46-year-old son, Richard, didn’t serve, instead he became the family historian and works to honor his father’s legacy, not just on Veterans Day but every day.
Richard Cowell spent six months hunting down the rifle after finding a white piece of paper with the word “Springfield” written in cursive followed by the serial number “3594593” in his father’s desk. Finding a specific service rifle after 73 is like finding a needle in a haystack mind you.
After WWII, the United States handed out M1 Garands like candy to nations all over the world has lend lease, foreign aid, and direct sales. Denmark, Vietnam, Italy, and Guatemala are just a few of the countries over the years that have gotten rifles. So the chance that Mr. Cowell’s rifle was still in the US was a slim chance.
But luck shined upon Richard and he found his father’s rifle. He found the rifle on GunBroker.com in New Jersey of all places. A gun collector was selling it, and after Richard outbid a tough competitor, the rifle was his.
In late October, Mr. Cowell’s 11-year-old grandson, Tommy, presented him with the rifle.
Mr. Cowell, ever the Marine, remembered his training and time with his rifle. From the days he took part in target practice on the range to walking down Fifth Avenue in NYC when the war end. Mr. Cowell of course being a Marine was and still is a rifleman first and foremost and his actions speak for themselves.
The M1 Garand now sits in Mr. Cowell’s office where the 90 year old Marine teaches his grandson about firearms safety and days gone by. But the best part of this is said best by Tommy’s mother.
“It’s been such a bonding thing for all of them,” said Erin Cowell, Richard’s wife. “Every little boy loves a soldier. And for Tommy, his grandpa is his soldier.”