BANGOR, Maine (AP) — The State Department is honoring a former diplomat for bravery when fighting broke out in the capital of the Republic of Congo during a civil war.
William Rowland, who retired in July after 25 years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, is being recognized with a Hero of U.S. Diplomacy award, the Bangor Daily News reported.
“William Rowland will be recognized for displaying unwavering courage during the evacuation of U.S. Embassy Brazzaville in June 1997,” the State Department said in a statement.
Rowland, of Swans Island, Maine, was serving his first posting with the foreign service in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, when government forces attempted to disarm a militia loyal to an opposition candidate in advance of the presidential elections in 1997.
Fighting broke out near the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, which is located across the river from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rowland helped evacuate Americans living in Brazzaville, helped rescue colleagues from the fighting, and negotiated with the Russian-Ukrainian crew of an airplane to transport him and a group of other embassy workers on a short flight across the river to safety.
Rowland told the newspaper he left Brazzaville with a suitcase and his camera.
“That’s all I got out with — and my life,” Rowland said.
Rowland went on to serve diplomatic postings in Colombia, Brazil, Canada, Venezuela, India, Honduras, Nigeria and Haiti. The State Department has given the award to a dozen current and former members of the foreign service.
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