Love’s Road Home

Her fatigue ran deeper than this, to years of worrying about Mr. Siatta, first when he was in Afghanistan, then when he was in prison, and now while he tried to find the work that might elevate his sense of self-worth. She stayed with it, dutifully, sometimes mechanically, “to be able to pay the rent, pay the bills, pay for the groceries, electric and phones.” He was worth it, she said. This was the service of love. She had fallen for him at age 10. He was her boyfriend during much of high school, when she studied metal fabrication and welding in their small prairie town. He left to join the Marine Corps, which decorated him for valor and praised him for saving other men’s lives. She had never wanted him in the corps. She dreamed peaceful dreams, of becoming a broadcast journalist or opening a dance school. When 2017 arrived she was 26 and caring for the postwar version of her best friend — an able-bodied man without a job. She knew she was blessed that he had survived. She fought to remember what she wanted to be. “It’s been so hectic for so long I think I forgot what I was good at, and what I like,” she said. She almost dared not to say what she needed. She needed one more break. A job, she thought. Someone has to give Sam a job. As Justice Lavin tells it, Conner T. Lowry, one of his nephews, showed up in a Marine recruiter’s office in 2008 as a “classic South Side Irish kind of kid.” Standing six feet five inches tall and weighing 220 pounds, he was exuberance personified (“live life large,” he used to say), and determined to enlist. The judge was against the decision. He thought the United States had bungled the wars since the terror attacks in 2001 and that the Pentagon didn’t know what it was doing — circumstances in which the risks to the enlisted ranks were exceptionally high. Young Mr. Lowry was firm. He told him, the judge said, that “he decided to get into the Marine Corps to straighten his life out a little bit.” Family and friends saw him off from Cork & Kerry, an Irish bar in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. The judge, being a judge, knew when a case was lost. He observed the rituals. He hoisted a pint of Guinness, set aside his misgivings and threw in his blessing, with a toast. “We have to support our country, support our flag, support our men and women in uniform,” he said. “Even if we disagree with the mission.” By early 2012 Conner Lowry had been promoted to corporal and was on a combat tour in Helmand Province, Afghanistan with Golf Battery, Second Battalion, 11th Marines. He was an artilleryman. But under the Pentagon’s often incoherent counterinsurgency doctrine he was serving time as a provisional grunt, and going out on patrols. Continue reading the main story

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