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Soldier comes home

May 31, 2003|By RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Kevin Michael Lowe, a 21-year-old Marine who was involved in the fighting in Iraq from the beginning through the capture of Baghdad, came home to a hero's welcome Friday afternoon.

Red, white and blue balloons floated from mailboxes on Sherri's Way, Lowe's street in Whispering Hills. Some of his neighbors put signs in his honor on their front lawns.

His parents, Kevin W. and Gloria Lowe, drove to Camp Lejeune, N.C., Thursday to pick up their son. His unit had just flown in.

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When their green van entered the cul-de-sac in Smithsburg, the first thing Lowe saw was about a dozen family members and friends on his family's front porch at 104 Sherri's Way. His grandfather, John Forbes, 72, a Marine who served during the Korean War, was among them.

Lowe's sister, Gloria Hunter, 25, was tracking the whereabouts of her parents' van on her cell phone as they were headed home.

"He should be here in about five minutes," she said as the excitement among those waiting on the porch intensified.

Lowe, dressed in jeans and a blue polo shirt, was immediately mobbed with hugs, handshakes and well-wishes as he stepped out of the van.

Lowe and his parents had stopped in Frederick, Md., to see his younger sister, Amanda, 20, at her retail job at a mall there on the way in.

"What can you say?" said Lowe, who was rendered nearly speechless by his enthusiastic welcome.

Asked about his experience in the fighting, Lowe said he had "no words to describe it. It was the best time of my life and the worst time."

Lowe's unit, the 2nd Tank Battalion of the 1st Marine Division, was one of the first into Iraq when the war started. His specialty was night vision operations. He sat in the turret of his tank and manned the machine gun.

He'd seen fellow Marines die. He saw a rocket propelled grenade hit one of his unit's tanks. One of his own lieutenants was killed when an enemy bullet ricocheted off his bullet-proof vest and went into his head.

He said he saw a lot of combat.

"There was no rear and the front lines were everywhere," he said.

"We saw him on television," his sister Gloria said. "He was in his top turret firing his machine gun as they were entering Baghdad. He looked toward the camera and gave a thumbs-up. We have it on video."

Lowe had this to say for anyone who opposed the United States' invasion of Iraq: "It was all worth it; if you could have seen the happy faces of the Iraqi people and the children."

Lowe's father was a 19-year-old Marine when he was sent to the fighting in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971.

"Yes, I think Kevin should have been there," he said. "Vietnam was a different story. The politicians wouldn't let us fight there the right way. We had our hands tied behind us."

He choked up when he thought of his son going into harm's way.

"It was not too good," he said.

Lowe, a 1999 graduate of Smithsburg High School, is in the third year of a five-year hitch. His outfit was called up over the Christmas holidays, his sister said.

"He was home on leave and was ordered to report immediately," she said.

Lowe's mother said the family is planning a party in his honor Sunday at 2 p.m. at the local veterans park for family and friends, "or anyone who wants to show up. Kevin has a lot of friends," she said.

She went to every house on Sherri's Way to ask her neighbors if she could attach balloons to their mailboxes, said Chris Newberry who lives at 110 Sherri's Way.

"This is a close-knit community," Newberry said. "I moved here two years ago."

Newberry, who said he opposed the war, put up a sign for Lowe's benefit on his front lawn. It read: "Thank you. God Bless America."

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