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UI vets reflect after former student dies in combat

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | MARCH 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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The former University of Iowa student killed inAfghanistan last week is believed to be just the second serviceman killed overseas after being deployed from the university since the Vietnam era.

Chicago native Conner Lowry was reportedly killed March 1 while serving in the Marines in Afghanistan; he had been deployed in October 2011. He was attending the UI when he was called to serve.

"The way we always described it was not if he was coming home, but when he was coming home," said UI graduate Connor Brackin, a childhood friend and college roommate of Lowry's. "You never really thought about [him not coming home] because it was Conner — you thought nothing would ever happen to him."

Brackin said the 24-year-old always took care of everyone and always knew how to make people smile.

"He always lit up the room he came in," he said. "He was a really special person. He always took care of his friends and family. If anything happened, he was always the first one there."

Members of the UI Veterans Association also mourned the loss of Lowry.

"These are our brothers," said UI Veterans Center coordinator John Mikelson. "We are saddened by each and every loss because these are the people that are doing the jobs we help."

Mikelson said Lowry is one of only two students since Vietnam to be killed in combat after being called up while enrolled at the UI.

"Other than those two, we haven't lost anybody since," Mikelson said. "Our sympathies go out to his family and friends here in the Iowa City area."

The Daily Iowan was unable to reach Lowry's family as of Sunday evening.

Other UI veterans said they feel the pang of Lowry's death.

"When you're in combat, you're always thinking of your family and friends," UI sophomore and veteran Andrew Robertson said. "Truthfully, you don't really think about [death] and you don't think about you're own life. It's horrible for the family [that loses someone in combat] because they're not going to see each other again."

Robertson said coming back to the UI after being in Afghanistan has been a huge adjustment.

"It's kind of hard just because you're used to having structure, s*** that you're supposed to do each day," he said. "You get back into college, and everything's on you."

Unlike Lowry, UI Veterans Association President Amanda Irish said most military students at the UI had served full-time before they came to the university.

"The vast majority of our students have fulfilled their service obligations after being on active duty," she said. "We do also have a number of students in the Guard and Reserve components."

Irish said students who deploy after graduation usually consist of those in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

Robertson said he saw few college students during his tour as well.

"There was only a handful — I'd say maybe 10 in my platoon," he said. "The sergeants all have college education but they've also been out of school for a while. The other guys have mostly been going to school and haven't graduated yet."


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