Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Paul Lowery of Ringgold retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after serving as a pilot for 23 years.
In an Aug. 2 Hixson meeting of Sam P. McConnell Post 159 American Legion, Lowery spoke of his many close calls in the military.
“Being in the military was quite an experience,” he said. “You have great memories and not so great memories.”
Lowery remembers using black and white 8,000-speed film in his Nikon camera to capture photos of the Vietnamese military’s floating fuel barrels so that U.S. Marines could shoot and bomb the barrels to destroy the floating supplies. He served in Vietnam as a combat pilot, flight instructor and senior air director from June 1969-July 1970.
He also remembers when a 57-millimeter round hit his aircraft’s frame in between the two engines while airborne in Vietnam. He said his crew was lucky the device did not explode before landing and that most of the crew was spared.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God,” Lowery told the American Legion members in attendance for his presentation. “Respect history and remember, if we are not careful, it might repeat itself.
“And don’t ever put distance between you and the average guy.”
Lowery was awarded many prestigious honors for his combat in Vietnam and overall military record: the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with Combat V, nine Air Medals, a Meritorious Commendation Medal, U.S. Navy Commendation Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and National Defense Medal.
He flew a fighter bomber F4B/J Phantom with a max speed of 2.3 Mach. He also flew an air support bomber A4 Skyhawk and an AV8A Harrier. In his 13 months in Vietnam he began his duties living in tents and moved up to a quonset hut with a window air-conditioning unit. Pilots were the sole military allowed to live in the huts with air conditioning.
Lowery has resided in Ringgold for 16 years.