MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - On Feb. 1, 1951, then-22-year-old John McGowan was 22 felt that he wanted to fight in the Korean War.
"When I graduated as a medical technologist, I went aboard the CVS 3060 USS Antietam, which is a carrier, and it was the carrier that had the first candid deck. It went off the side and we sailed you know as an anti-submarine up and down the coast and … we didn't have jets on board. We had prop planes that would skim the water and look for submarines, and if they found anything they would drop phosphorus flares to let you know where it was and I enjoyed it very, very much," McGowan said.
He was eventually transferred to the USS Tarawa before going to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut, where he oversaw the clinical laboratory.
McGowan spent six years in the Navy helping thousands of others who were injured or sick, and never forgetting those he lost along the journey.
"This fellow, my high school mate picked up the flares and then was going to throw them over the side and he walked into a prop and that was very, very bad yeah," he said.
Still, McGowan said he's thankful for the uplifting moments.
"The camaraderie and a lot of good memories, and you're helping the country. I think it's the best country in the world and you have to see other countries to realize, you know, what you have and what you're complaining about and that sort of thing, and then there wouldn't be so many complaints you see," he said. "But no, I think this is the best country, no doubt about it, and I'm proud to be an American."
Now, he shares his patriotism with his family, which is comprised of three children and five grandchildren. Looking back, McGowan said he wouldn't trade his naval experience for anything.
"My biggest regret was not staying in the Navy. I had six years in the Navy and they would of, if I had stayed in to become an officer, I would have probably definitely made the Navy my career which was a very, very big mistake and I regret that very much," he said.
McGowan came to Myrtle Beach in 2003 and continued his service as a substitute teacher until 2016.
He now enjoys time with his family.