I went to Texas to see him off and we spent three days together. He showed me his "gear"... the bulletproof vest weighed at least 20 pounds? He proudly held up his M16-A2 rifle. I had never held a gun in my hand; guns made me nervous.
The sudden awareness that Chris knew quite well how to use it unnerved me. I prayed he wouldn't have to use it. When he put on his chemical warfare mask the horror of it all really hit me. Chris was enthusiastically teaching himself to speak Arabic from a manual and he already knew some phrases like "Drop your weapons! Hands up! I am an American Soldier!"
It struck me how strange this all was. I felt like I was visiting my son at his college dorm, but instead of preparing for math and science, he was preparing to fight and even die for his country!
When we said good-bye, despair threatened to engulf me. I managed to keep from falling apart but it was a bittersweet parting.
He embraced me in his strong arms and whispered, "Don't worry Mom. I'll come back."
He told me he was kind of scared but also very excited; he had always loved adventure movies like "Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade". Now he was off on his own journey and I just prayed that he would return unharmed.
The next few weeks dragged by slowly. I constantly alternated between checking my mailbox and watching the news.
One channel would show Army tanks and helicopters preparing for the fight. Another channel would be broadcasting anti-war protest marches.
Millions of people congregated, from London and Paris to Florida and Washington D.C. It brought back memories of the Vietnam War protest marches.
I had to admit, the excitement in the air was rather invigorating. The color-coded "Terrorist Alert" warnings just added to the hysteria.
My family and I sent Chris a lot of mail, packages with items such as disposable cameras, lip balm, playing cards and sunscreen. I began receiving letters from Chris while he was still in Kuwait, getting ready for the invasion.
On March 22nd, 2003, I sat on my couch in the middle of the night, glued to CNN, my shoulders rigid with tension and my vision blurry from lack of sleep. The newscaster looked tired as he stood amongst a group of American soldiers holding rifles and gas masks. The wind was blowing sand around them and their expressions were grim.
Then President Bush came on the air standing in front of an American flag as he addressed the nation. "The security of the world requires the disarmament of Saddam Hussein now. May God Bless America."
Three hundred and fifty thousand troops were poised and ready for "First Attack". I knew Chris was there but thankfully I didn't find out until later was that Chris was driving the FIRST HLTMVEE in his unit across the Iraqi border.
By the following day, two pilots from Chris' regiment in Ft. Hood, Chief Warrant Officer David Williams and Chief Warrant Officer Ron Young would be shot down in their Apache helicopter and held as POWS.
For the next couple of weeks I prayed all the time and I was constantly on the phone with family and friends. Finally at the beginning of April, I received a letter from Chris:
Well, I'm in Iraq now and boy is it wild! When we crossed the border the Iraqi guards were all dead... it was pretty gruesome.
I was going on hours of no sleep so I was pretty burned out. We passed Iraqis along the road and most of them were waving American flags.
But then some of them fired at us... it's pretty nerve-wracking because you don't know what to expect. Many of them were begging for food. We were told not to give Them any because we only had enough for ourselves but some of us did throw food out to them anyway.
You can't help but feel sorry for them. I'll tell you what, it does feel pretty awesome when you see them blowing kisses and cheering for us! It makes me feel good about what I am doing here.
On a sad note, two of our pilots were taken hostage. It hit our unit pretty bad. Anyway, I am trying to maintain out here and keep my head up and my eyes open. I love you and miss you.
Chris and his regiment arrived back in the United States on May 21 at 2 a.m. at the Ft. Hood Airport base. There were hundreds of people there, some who had waited for over nine hours! As the soldiers departed the plane, a band struck up and the crowd went wild! All night people shook Chris' hand and thanked him.
I wasn't able to see Chris until June when he met me in Silver Star. Right away I noticed that his shoulders seemed wider and he had lost weight. He proudly showed me an impressive looking "Army Commendation Medal" that he had received for "Meritorious service while serving as a member of the Support Platoon during OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM".
"Specialist Lowry's hard work, selfless service and commitment to the safety and freedom of our nation is unparalleled. His actions reflect credit upon himself, the 1-227th Aviation Regiment, Victory and the United States Army"
Chris and I went gopher hunting and fishing while he rested at my parents' ranch in Silver Star. There was an air of self-assurance about him that was new and he was happy to talk to people we ran into who wanted to thank him and ask him questions.
He went to Ft. Hood and was asked to speak to a group of VFW people in Texas and he did this enthusiastically. We were all happy, our family was proud; our war hero returned from battle safely. But then, a new twist occurred that rocked my world badly.
Shortly after Chris returned to Ft. Hood, he called me one Friday afternoon. I could tell something was wrong... his voice sounded tired and strained. When he told me he had received orders to return to Iraq I thought at first he was kidding around. But he wasn't; he was being deployed back to Iraq, this time for a year! I was heartsick.
By this time, things were getting more and more violent back in Iraq. I went to Portland, Oregon at Christmas to my brother's home and Chris met me there.
We had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's together but when I said good-bye to Chris, this time I was an emotional wreck. I knew it was going to be a long time before I saw him again.
On March 1st, 2004, Chris returned to Iraq, this time to Camp Tagi. I am more scared this time than I was before; things have gotten insane over there. An American was beheaded two weeks ago, the death toll of U.S. Soldiers lost has reached almost 800.
Everyday I turn on the news with shaking hands and pray I don't hear anything about Camp Tagi.
As I write this story, Chris has at least nine more months to remain in Iraq. I try to keep busy. He e-mails me quite often, which helps a lot. I pray all the time and talk to my mother and other family members.
All we can do is wait, and live one day at a time, as this scary drama unfolds. I count the days until I see Chris again, until he comes home for good. I envision that day in my mind and that is the only thing that keeps me going.
Debra& Lowry is a Dillon resident, and her son, Chris, is on his second tour of duty in Iraq