10/16/09 — Just Mark: Those who grieved Thursday will never forget the man or the hero

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Just Mark: Those who grieved Thursday will never forget the man or the hero

He was not just another lost service member or just another name on one of the white headstones that mark the resting places of heroes -- not to them.

Capt. Mark McDowell was so much more to the family, friends and comrades in arms who were gathered at his memorial service in Arlington National Cemetery.

They will remember how he died, but more importantly, how he lived, how he inspired and what he meant to them.

They recognize that he lost his life in service to his country, protecting the Marines on the ground in Afghanistan.

They will never let anyone forget that bravery, that determination to serve or that their friend was a hero.

But they will not let that battlefield death be the end of Capt. McDowell's story -- the legacy that frames his last days.

They know that the impact of his life went much further than that.

It was "Mark" they gathered to honor Thursday -- the man they say was meticulous in his determination to be the best pilot he could be and has made them better men and better airmen because of the example he set.

They talked about his kindness, his sense of humor, his drive -- and they will treasure the stories they say they will never forget of the impact such a young man had on their lives.

And the members of the 336th Fighter Squadron promised something else, too, Thursday, that they will take care of his widow, Katie, that she will forever be part of their family.

They welcomed Capt. McDowell's mother, father and the rest of his immediate family with the same, open and welcoming arms.

So while there was sadness and overwhelming grief Thursday, there was a calmness, too -- the knowledge that a hero lost is never forgotten, not really, as long as someone tells his story.

And in that graveyard in Arlington, Va., those who loved and respected Capt. Mark McDowell vowed to do just that.

All the rest of us can do is offer our condolences -- and promise to support those who will continue to carry on his mission.

Published in Editorials on October 16, 2009 11:07 AM