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WWII vet remembers battles in the Pacific

n Recently completes Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to tour war memorials


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A group of veterans, many of them World War II-era veterans including St. Helens resident and former Marine Hal Lowry, were a part of an Honor Flight earlier this month. The non-profit organization gives veterans a chance to tour Washington D.C. and see the many war memorials.For most people, Memorial Day means a three-day weekend, a chance to get out of town and, hopefully, enjoy good weather.

But for former U.S. Marine Hal Lowry, who fought in the Pacific during World War II, it’s a time to remember.

He recently completed an Honor Flight, a tour of Washington D.C. war memorials organized by the nonprofit Honor Flight Network. He traveled with other veterans from Oregon and, though he only knew a handful of them before the trip, that didn’t matter. They shared a common story.

“It was easy to talk with them,” he said. “They’d gone through their stages of life in the war.”

Lowry was 17 years old when he signed up with the U.S. Marines and was assigned to the Fourth Division.

His father, who served in the Navy, had approached a chaplain when Lowry was 14 and asked, gesturing to Lowry, “Can I get him in the Navy?”

“We don’t have room for a 14-year-old,” the chaplain replied. “Wait until he’s 15 or 16.”

This delay suited Lowry who wanted to be a Marine. He joined up, at the legal age, three years later.

World War II had a huge impact on his family. Lowry was in the Marines, his father was in the Navy and Lowry’s older brother was in the Army. His brother traveled overseas to Europe as a paratrooper and he was later killed in the Battle of the Bulge, generally considered to be one of the bloodiest World War II battles fought by U.S. forces, just before Gen. George Patton arrived with backup.

“If he’d only been a day earlier, my brother might have been alive,” Lowry said.

Lowry was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star during his time with the Marines where he was primarily involved in reconnaissance assignments.

On the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, he stayed with a wounded buddy for several long hours, unable to retreat. The Japanese troops showered them with mortar rounds.

“Every time I yelled [for help], the Japanese would open up with the mortars,” Lowry said. “They could see us, but they couldn’t actually kill me.”

After four to five hours, Lowry took his chance.

“I figured we’d better get out of there or we’d be bayonet or machete meat,” he said. He carried his friend back to a secure place where he could get medical attention and then went back to the line.

Much later, after the fighting at Iwo Jima was over, Lowry ran into the man again. He had made it through his injuries, which included a wound where a bullet has passed through under one arm and exited under the other.

“I was so glad to see him,” Lowry said.

These days, though, Lowry doesn’t see many fellow World War II veterans. When he lived in California, he tried to organize a Marine group, but without much success.

“It’s tough,” he said. “The guys are getting older and the nights are darker.”

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