Military service marks an incredibly defining time in a person's life. Whether one served for two years or 20, the memories, camaraderie and pride will last for life.
Sometimes, children follow in their parents' footsteps and create a legacy of service that can span the generations.
Such is the case with Air Force Lieutenant Colonel David Lowery, who works at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida as the deputy commander of the Florida Air National Guard's 101st Air Communications Squadron. He is an eighth generation native Floridian, whose paternal family has been farmers in northern Walton County since shortly after Florida attained statehood in 1845.
His Floridian heritage runs deep as does his military lineage. Lowery is a third-generation National Guardsman and an enrolled member of the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, one of the indigenous Native American tribes of Northern Florida, through his mother's maternal line.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Lowery recovered this historic photo of his late grandfather, William E. Givens Jr. (top left) with his firing team during a competition in Camp Perry, Ohio, in 1966. (Courtesy photo provided by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Lowery)
“To know where you come from and your heritage is very important,” Lowery said. “Everyone is from somewhere and for me, the Florida Panhandle is home.”
Just prior to his eighth birthday, Lowery's maternal grandfather, Retired Florida Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel William E. “Bill” Givens, Jr., passed away. Six months later, a lightning strike caused his step-grandmother's home to burn to the ground. She lost all of her belongings, save for a few precious photos other family members shared with her. While Mrs. Christine C. Givens would rebuild a new home on the same property, her husband's uniforms, decorations, and other military documents were all destroyed in the fire.
As Lowery grew older and joined the service himself, he became more curious about the specifics of his family's military service—something his elders would rarely talk about, aside from humbly acknowledging they had served. A maternal great-grandfather, Private First Class William E. Givens, Sr. had served overseas during World War I in the Army Reserves with the 306th Quartermaster Battalion. His son, William E. Givens, Jr. earned the coveted Army Combat Infantryman's Badge for ground combat in Europe during World War II with the 3rd Army.
Rising to the enlisted rank of Sergeant First Class, Givens Jr. would earn an officer's commission in 1950 before returning to the Sunshine State. He joined the Florida Army National Guard in May 1955 and served until his retirement in 1974. Lowery's paternal grandfather, Louis N. Lowery, had also served in World War II as an anti-aircraft gunner aboard the USS New Jersey (BB-62), experiencing combat himself in the Pacific Theater. Two uncles would later serve in Vietnam—one in the Navy and one as an Air Force combat cameraman—while a third maternal uncle, Army Staff Sergeant Grady F. Bass, served for 24 years as a traditional guardsman in the Alabama Army National Guard.
“I had been told my grandfather (Givens, Jr.) was an avid competitive marksman and had led the Florida Guard's pistol team,” said Lowery. “I really didn't know what that entailed, so I began to look online, do some research, and reached out to the Florida National Guard Historian's Office.”
Lowery found some archived bi-annual reports from the Florida Adjutant General to the Florida State Legislature and discovered a picture of Givens posed with his firing team and the Florida State Flag when they competed in 1966 in Camp Perry, Ohio. Mrs. Alison Simpson, the Florida National Guard Historian, was happy to help as well. She would soon uncover a second original photo of the state's 1964 pistol competition team at Camp Perry as well with then-Major William E. Givens, Jr. as the team's commander.
After Lowery found the first team photo, he was very excited to share it with his step-grandmother, Mrs. Givens, who lives in Florala, Ala. “She was thrilled,” he said. “It really meant a lot to both of us.”
Serving in the National Guard has been very rewarding for Lowery. His love for state and nation are evident in his voice. “It's an honor to wear the same uniform as my forefathers and serve our country,” he said. “But also serve the community where we grew up and have family roots.”
Lowery walks with a distinct determination and pride in his step. He knows all the airmen and NCOs in his squadron by-name and greets each of them warmly while bragging about the accomplishments of each subordinate.
Even on his personal vehicle, he proudly sports stickers of the U.S. and Florida state flags. “It's great to be able to continue that legacy of service and tell my kids and future grandkids where we come from” Lowery said.
Lowery's son is a high school senior and plans to enlist into the Florida Air National Guard and head off to Basic Training after graduation next year, which will mark yet another generation of service.
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Derrol Fulghum
Provided through DVIDS
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