Former Marine finds home with Sedro-Woolley police
SEDRO-WOOLLEY — November is a month that has great meaning for Derick Lowe.
The month marks his birthday and the anniversary of his hiring at the Sedro-Woolley Police Department. It also marks the anniversary of what the former Marine calls his “D-Day” — the start of a 2004 battle in Fallujah, Iraq, where Lowe lost his best friend.
“You don’t have the opportunity to sit there and think about it and dwell on it and grieve,” said Lowe, who was in Iraq with the 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. “You have to keep going.”
The 34-year-old Lowe, who is originally from Tacoma, joined the Marine Corps in 2003. In 2004, he was sent to Iraq for what he was told would be a “boring” deployment.
“We had a rude awakening,” he said. “I was quickly introduced to death and chaos and war.”
A month before his unit was to come home, its deployment was extended, he said. His unit was told it would be taking the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.
“We prepared for it and it was like preparing us to never come home,” he said.
At daybreak on the morning of Nov. 9, after a briefing from Gen. James Mattis, who is the current U.S. secretary of defense, Lowe’s unit went into Fallujah.
The battle has since been called some of the heaviest combat that U.S. troops had seen since Vietnam.
“When we were in Fallujah, our thoughts were: ‘We’re already dead. We’re fighting to come home,’” Lowe said.
Within the first four hours, he said, two of his comrades were dead.
Lowe was injured in the fighting, earning him the first of two Purple Heart medals he would receive during his Marine Corps career.
“That deployment was rough,” Lowe said. “That was my introduction to the Marine Corps.”
Called “Operation Phantom Fury,” the battle is detailed in the book “We Were One” by war historian Patrick K. O’Donnell, who was embedded with Lowe’s battalion during the fighting.
“I love it and I hate it at the same time,” Lowe said of having been involved in the battle. “We were part of a big dent in history, but at the same time, I lost a lot of good friends.”
Lowe served 13 1/2 years in the Marine Corps, including time with the branch’s Special Operations Command. He served in places such as Afghanistan, Oman and Africa.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury during fighting in Ramadi, Iraq, Lowe was sent stateside to recuperate with Wounded Warrior Battalion-East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“I wanted to go back so bad,” he said of being deployed. “I enjoyed it for so long.”
While in the Wounded Warrior Battalion, Lowe began to think of what he wanted to do after leaving the military.
“In order for me to be happy, I have to be actively helping people,” he said.
With support from the battalion commander, Lowe began searching for internships with nearby police departments, eventually landing a one-year internship in the small Richlands, North Carolina, police department.
“He gave me a chance,” Lowe said of the chief who gave him the internship. “The deal was, if he liked me, he would send me to the (law enforcement) academy.”
Before he had even officially retired from the Marine Corps, Lowe was hired as an officer with the department.
“It was my calling,” Lowe said “Everything kind of fell together for me.”
After moving to Washington, Lowe was hired by the Sedro-Woolley Police Department last year.
“This department is great,” he said.
Sedro-Woolley Police Chief Lin Tucker said Lowe is a welcome addition to the department.
“He has real-world experience and a completely different world than any of us can ever imagine,” Tucker said. “He’s had bad guys trying to hurt him, and he’s had to defend himself, and we can apply that to all of our defensive tactics, our firearms program and just the way we think.”
Lowe said it wasn’t until after he returned stateside — when his duties included planning funeral services for Marines killed in action — that he was able to begin to process the loss of his comrades in Fallujah.
“I had made it pretty far without having to deal with it,” he said. “The first kid we had to bury that was (killed in action) … that’s when I saw a lot of my issues come out.”
Each person, he said, has to process their losses and their time in the military in their own way.
“Asking for help is never a bad thing,” Lowe said. “And that’s something I think veterans forget.”
The important thing, he said, is to not give up.
“Don’t allow the things that war has done to you dictate the rest of your life,” he said. “Because then, in the end, you’re still letting the enemy beat you.”
November is a month that also marks the Marine Corps birthday and Veterans Day.
But for Lowe, November still brings him back to Fallujah.
“It just so happens that Veterans Day holds a different meaning for me,” he said. “What matters is there are people who came before you who fought for you to have those rights.”