Salvador Cariaga, a minister supported by the church, had sent pictures of the memorial, but “Dad really wanted to see it … while he still could,” said Dean Owen, who accompanied his father.
“We thought we’d go over there, stroll up and see this memorial and that would be that,” Dean Owen said.
Instead, a delegation of government officials met the men with a large welcoming banner and a military escort to the memorial in Cabanatuan, the site of the prison camp where Carl Owen died.
“The Philippine government welcomed Harrold with great honor and respect,” said Cariaga, who accompanied the visitors and introduced them to several Filipino church leaders during the trip.
For father and son, the experience was “kind of overwhelming,” Dean said.
The Owens shook hands with Filipino colonels and war veterans and took part in a memorial service. A military band performed the Filipino and American national anthems and Taps. “Harrold visibly shed tears when a wreath was laid in honor of his brother,” Cariaga said.
Harrold was only 17 when he joined the military. The son of pioneering church planters in the Fort Worth area, he was one of nine children.
He followed Carl, his older brother, into the service. Another brother, Charles, served in the infantry in Europe and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Before serving in New Guinea and the Philippines, Harrold trained at a base in Salinas, Calif. He met his future wife, Betty, at a nearby Church of Christ.
“He asked her to marry him before he went overseas,” Dean said, “but her father wouldn’t let her say yes until dad returned safely from the war.” The couple was married in July 1945 — within a month of Harrold’s return to California.
The Owens moved to Texas and were charter members of the Trail Lake church, which later moved and changed its name to Altamesa.
Harrold served as an elder for several years, and taught the junior high school boys Bible class. Some of pupils are now elders themselves, his son said. Betty, who taught Bible classes for girls at the church, died about two years ago.
Dean, who also has served as an elder at Altamesa, said he credits his father with “giving me a heart for wanting to make the church all that she can be.”
He started accompanying his father on business trips at age 10. To keep him awake on the long drives, Dean would ask him about the war. “He talked about it all night long,” Dean said.
Nowadays it’s difficult for Harrold to speak, his son said. But after the trip, when Dean’s wife picked them up at the airport, Harrold “talked and smiled the whole way home.”