A 1941 graduate of Vienna High School (Missouri), Rowden was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1943. He served as a radio operator aboard a B-17 bomber and was shot down near Hanover, Germany on his sixth and final mission on March 6, 1944. Although he safely evacuated the aircraft, he was captured by the German military and spent 13 months in prison camps until his liberation by the 104th Division on April 26, 1945. Rowden was discharged from the service in November 1945 and, several months later, joined the Missouri National Guard. He retired in 1983 at the rank of chief warrant officer four, having dedicated more than 38 years of his life to state and country. Rowden lives in Holt Summit, Missouri and recently celebrated his 98th birthday.