A Soldier's Mom worries abour her son in Iraq
On Saturday, April 24th, 2004, I woke up and turned on CNN. A bright orange map of Iraq flashed on the screen with a big red arrow pointing to "Camp Tagi", one of the coalition airport bases located 13 miles north of Baghdad.
On the screen below the map, the ticker tape running across the bottom said "Five U.S. Soldiers Killed in Tagi, Iraq today".
I began shaking and I fell to my knees crying and praying.
My 22-year-old son, Spc. Chris Lowry was stationed at Tagi and I was certain he had been killed. It was the news I had been dreading for two years. With violently shaking hands I called Rachel, the wife of Chris' captain at Ft. Hood, Texas.
"It wasn't Chris, Debbie... he's safe... it wasn't Chris!" she promised me. She had heard from her husband.
Several soldiers in Chris' unit had been killed earlier that day but Chris was not one of them.
After I hung up I was completely exhausted; the constant stress of the war was taking its toll on me. I leaned my head back on the sofa in my living room and closed my eyes, wondering how a peace-loving, former hippie like myself had let her son go to war. Fragments of memories flitted through my mind like scenes from a movie.
I was a product of the '60s; one of my big regrets, when I was younger, was that I didn't make it to Woodstock!
I grew up in the Midwest and went to the University of Iowa where I studied journalism and hung out with long-haired guys who drove Harleys and taught me about Zen and Bob Dylan and rebellion.
In 1981 my son Chris was born and when the nurse handed him to me, I held onto him firmly, knowing inside that my bohemian days of carefree living from moment to moment were over.
I was a single parent from day one but my parents helped me a lot. Chris was often sick as a child and we spent a lot of time at the doctor's office. Winters in Iowa were fierce and sometimes the windows in my old house froze shut.
Every night when I read Chris to sleep, I would start to leave his room and he would mumble, "one more minute Mommy, please, just one more minute." Sometimes I would have to fight back tears but no matter how tired I was or how many chores I had to do, I knew that being there with him was all that really mattered.
I became ill when Chris was 10 and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Chris would often take care of me, covering me with a blanket when I was resting, making soup for me.
He had a wonderful ability to imitate people and when I was feeling down, he would do dead-on impersonations of characters such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Marge Simpson.
Usually, he had me laughing so hard I would forget I was sick! He rarely complained; even then he had the ability to rise above a difficult situation and take charge.
I bought him a guitar and introduced him to The Beatles music. By the time he was in high school, he was playing in bands at parties and local teen nightclubs. Most everyone who heard him thought he was talented and we talked a length about him pursuing a profession in music.
But I discussed with him the importance of a college education and he agreed; college was the plan. In high school, Chris went through a rebellious stage as most kids do. He wore clothing from the thrift store and dyed his dark hair different shades of blond, orange, and even blue!
He graduated in 2000 and a few months after that, he went to the Army Recruiting Office in Butte and enlisted for a four-year tour of duty. When I first found out, I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach but I forced a smile and hugged him tightly, fighting back the tears.
"Mom, don't cry. I'll be fine." He patted my head as he often did since he was 6'S' and towered over me. "Any-way, we're in peacetime. I'll be safe."
I felt like I was sinking in quicksand. Safe? I prayed he was right. When he left for boot camp in Ft. Jack-son, North Carolina in January of 2001, I couldn't stop crying as we said goodbye at the airport in Butte. I was living in Silver Star at the time and I went home to a silent house.
Quickly I learned about the "empty nest syndrome". I missed the smell of pizza, the television turned to "MTV", the house full of laughing teenagers. It was too quiet.
In the following days, I wrote Chris all the time and I eagerly awaited his letters. He hit a rough patch shortly after boot camp graduation and wanted to quit, but he hung in there.
He was sent to Ft. Hood, Texas where he was trained to fuel Apache helicopters. He was sending me very upbeat, positive letters and I became more relaxed with him being in the military.
For Mother's Day, he sent me a beautiful gold necklace with little diamonds in it and a letter which read:
I thought it would be more significant if I made my own Mother's Day card. More from the Heart. You mean so much to me and have done so much for me.
There was no challenge as a mother you couldn't face. You beat the odds as a single mother with a disability.
I will always be proud to be your son. I will always back your decisions 100%.
Keep up the good work Super Mom.
I Love always, Christopher
I carry that letter in y billfold always and 4 never take the necklace off. I guess I almost superstitious about it; it would be bad luck to take it off. And we need all the luck we can get because in January 2003 I got the phone call I was dreading; Chris had gotten orders to go to Iraq!
I could hear the exhaustion in his voice as he told me about all the things he had to do before being deployed, smallpox vaccinations, anthrax vaccinations.
Portraits of a Soldier
Chris Lowry in a Humvee, serving a second time in Iraq.
Chris Lowry with some of his fellow soldiers at ease in camp.
Chris is shown in a recent photo with his mother, Debra Lowry of Dillon.
Chris Lowry in a Humvee, serving a second time in Iraq.