News: Marine ‘warrior’ remembered at Kajaki
Story by Sgt. Jacob Harrer
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZEEBRUGGE, Afghanistan — The fallen Marine was remembered as a comic relief by many of his friends, but as Marines and sailors gathered for his memorial service, there was no laughter. The sun shined brightly against the mountain where the Marines of Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, remembered the life of Cpl. Conner T. Lowry, who served as a fire team leader, designated marksman, and ammunition technician chief.
Dozens of Marines, sailors, and civilians paid respects to Lowry, who passed away, March 1, 2012. The ceremony included the posting of a memorial shrine consisting of Lowry’s boots, rifle, helmet, and identification “dog” tags. Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, the Task Force Leatherneck commanding general, and Sgt. Maj. Terry L. Jones, the Task Force Leatherneck sergeant major, attended the ceremony. The crowd was silent, and there was not much noise except from airplanes flying and birds chirping. Marine sentries stood on guard and watched over the ceremony.
Lowry extended his enlistment to deploy here at the northernmost frontier for the Marines in Helmand province, said Cpl. Roger W. Malcolm, a close friend of Lowry who served with him for nearly four years at Golf Battery, 2nd Bn., 11th Marines. Malcolm, a team leader and fire direction controlman, said the former battalion commander told them that they were deploying to Kajaki and it would be a dangerous mission. Their hands shot up immediately.
Although the cause of his death is under investigation, it was not due to enemy contact or friendly fire, said 1st Sgt. Christopher S. Gasser, the Golf Battery first sergeant with 2nd Bn., 11th Marines.
Lowry’s death came as a surprise to his peers, who didn’t expect his untimely death, as they had gone through combat together and patrolled through hills and valleys littered with improvised explosive devices, said Malcolm, a 23-year-old native of Anaheim, Calif.
“The death of Cpl. Lowry is tragic in a different way because it’s unexpected,” said Navy Lt. Marlin L. Williams, the 2nd Bn. chaplain with 11th Marines.
Many of the Marines had difficulty believing the news of Lowry’s death, explained Malcolm. His peers kept the light on in his room that night of his death, hoping he would return. The memorial service helped people to accept Lowry’s passing, as many of them had difficulty realizing what happened because he was such a well-known and prominent Marine in the unit.
“You couldn’t help but know him,” said Williams. “He was 6 foot 5 inches and had a bird’s nest for a haircut. Everybody’s gonna know who the big guy is. He stood out because of his happy-go-lucky personality, and he never complained.”
Lowry is remembered as a comedian around the unit, telling jokes in his loud, Chicago, Irish accent that would ease the tension in the most difficult situations, said Cpl. Christian Huerta, a cannon crewman and fire team leader who served with Lowry and Malcolm for nearly four years at Golf Battery, 2nd Bn., 11th Marines. Lowry could run three miles in 17 minutes, and he had natural athletic talent, playing most sports and being very competitive.
No matter how bad conditions were, Lowry was able to make light of it, added Huerta, a fellow Chicago native. The corporals here lived next to a gun line of M777 lightweight howitzers, and during several fire missions, the explosions rattled the windows and shook the building. Plaster crumpled off the walls and debris floated throughout the room.
“Great, why wouldn’t it?” Lowry said with sarcastic facial expression as dust floated through the air, recounted Huerta.
Malcolm said Lowry’s sense of humor never stopped, even under enemy fire. He remembered rounds impacting within feet of Lowry while at Observation Post Shrine, one of the most northern and contested posts in Kajaki district. Both of them made light of an incident where they were almost struck by enemy rounds before Lowry turned to the direction of the fire and shot back with his M39 rifle, a modified version of the M14.
“Bullets didn’t really phase him,” explained Malcolm. “He just wanted to find where the rounds were coming from and hit them back. He wouldn’t miss.”
In January 2012, Malcolm and Lowry patrolled through Kajaki when his squad received enemy fire from a compound 1200 meters away. Insurgents were firing from a protected firing position cut out of a wall. After firing one round to see where his rounds would land, Lowry adjusted his aim and fired the remaining 19 rounds into the small, two foot square, neutralizing the insurgents.
Malcolm said his fondest memory of Lowry was at OP Shrine with machine gun fire coming at them. The feeling and honor of being in combat with his best friend is something he will remember for life.
“He was a warrior… he just really controlled the battlefield that day at [Observation Post] Shrine,” said Malcolm. “I’m just privileged to have fought alongside him. It’s one of the best memories I have. I want people to remember that Lowry wanted to be out here. We’re proud to fight over here.”
Editor's Note: The 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines are a part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.