Marine Cpl. Jamie R. Lowe
21, of Johnsonville, Ill.; assigned to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan; died Jan. 11 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Matthew N. Ingham and Cpl. Nicholas K. Uzenski.
(The following was taken from The Len Wells Column of www.courierpress.com of Jan. 17,2010) This past week, Wayne County, Ill., lost its first service member to the war in Afghanistan. Marine Cpl. Jamie R. Lowe, 21, the son of Kevin and Teresa Lowe of Johnsonville, died Monday in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
I cannot imagine the grief and the overwhelming sense of loss the Lowe family is experiencing right now.
As a newsman, trying to cover the story without intruding on the family's privacy is a very difficult task, especially when you take into consideration an entire community that desperately wants to show the Lowe family how much they appreciate his sacrifice and share in their sadness.
In Cisne, where Cpl. Lowe graduated from high school in 2007, the local flower shop has been handing out free red, white and blue bows to be displayed throughout the community.
The sign in front of the high school now bears a message of thanks for Cpl. Lowe's ultimate sacrifice. Members of the Cisne Bullets basketball team have added black bands to their uniforms. The cheerleaders are wearing black ribbons. Today's seniors at Cisne High School were freshmen when Jamie Lowe graduated.
Flags throughout the county, at every governmental office, business and school, have been lowered to half-staff. I can tell you that phone calls were placed to businesses that may not have gotten the word about Cpl. Lowe's death.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a Galesburg man who has never served in the military plans to bring more than 500 full-size American flags to Wayne County to line Cpl. Lowe's funeral route.
Larry Eckhardt says it's his personal way of giving something back to those who have given so much to ensure his freedom. In the past few months, Eckhardt has taken his moving flag display to three military funerals in Southern Illinois. Local high school students and volunteers will join Eckhardt in erecting the massive patriotic display.
"They shouldn't travel more than 20 feet without there being an American flag," Eckhardt said.
Local law enforcement agencies and fire departments also are making plans to ensure Cpl. Lowe's final journey home doesn't go unnoticed.
While Lowe is the first Wayne County service member lost to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he joins four other Southern Illinois residents who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Cpl. Forest Jostes, 22, of Albion was killed April 4, 2004. Spc. Brian A. Wright, 19, of Keensburg died Dec. 6, 2005. Spc. Casey Hills, 23, of Salem was killed June 24, 2009. Senior Airman Bradley Smith, 21, of Troy was killed Jan. 3.
I have no idea how many local soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are serving overseas right now.
What I can tell you is that the war they're fighting doesn't make the evening news very much these days. Their war seems to be drowned out by political battles on Capitol Hill and what's going to happen next to Jay Leno.
At least locally, the loss of a young man like Cpl. Jamie Lowe seems to jolt things back into perspective.
n Contact Len Wells at (618) 842-2159 or lenwells@[SR]wabash.net.