Jack Lowe’s dream always had been to become a Marine.
Born in Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms, California, he was about 5 years old when he decided he would pursue the Marine Corps, the 17-year-old told Marine Corps Times on Tuesday. He wanted to be like his dad, now-retired Staff Sgt. Daniel Lowe, 47.
In his first few years of high school in Flowery Branch, Georgia, Jack Lowe was a standout swimmer who cracked up his teachers and coaches and always got good grades, according to his father.
In March 2022, as a high school junior, Jack Lowe was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, according to a Marine Corps news story. He received 36 proton radiation treatments while completing in-patient chemotherapy.
Six months later, having been deemed cancer-free, he left the hospital.
He still was determined to become a Marine, Arin Davis, Daniel Lowe’s wife, who has raised Jack Lowe since he was young, told Marine Corps Times.
But in August, doctors discovered the cancer had returned and spread to his upper body, according to the Marine Corps story. He went through six weeks of experimental chemotherapy, but the cancer aggressively grew and spread through his body.
His doctors found his cancer was resistant to chemotherapy and declared his illness to be terminal, affording him only a “short window of life,” according to the Marine Corps story. Tired of being “poked and prodded,” Jack Lowe asked his family to stop treatment.
“We’re hoping that there’s still a miracle waiting for us,” Davis said.
The family didn’t know honorary Marines even existed until speaking with their Marine veteran neighbor, who mentioned he was working with a local recruiter to try to get the title for Jack Lowe, according to Daniel Lowe.
The honorary Marine program, which recognizes civilians with extraordinary contributions and ties to the Marine Corps, started in 1992.
It’s a rare honor, requiring approval from the commandant of the Marine Corps. As of July, there hadn’t even been 75 honorary Marines in the program’s history.
Daniel Lowe said he brought up the possibility of the title to his son’s godmother, who works with the Wounded Warrior Project. She got to work.
So did the Marine Corps.
Less than a week later, Brig. Gen. Walker Field, the commanding general of Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, came to the family’s home to designate Jack Lowe an honorary Marine.
Daniel Lowe said the Marine Corps told him Commandant Gen. Eric Smith had wanted to attend himself, but Smith went into cardiac arrest Oct. 29 and has since been recovering in a Washington hospital.
“Our greatest weapon is the fighting spirit found in each and every Marine,” Field said at the Nov. 1 ceremony, according to the Marine news story. “Throughout this very challenging time, Jack has displayed a tenacious fight underpinned by steady resolve and a wry, witty sense of humor. Henceforth, we as Marines embrace him as one of our own.”
Although Jack Lowe was in pain, “shaking like a leaf on a tree,” he remained standing during the ceremony, even raising his right hand from his walker to recite his oath, according to his father.
Field instructed Daniel Lowe to take the eagle, globe and anchor pin from the general’s own uniform and drop it into Jack Lowe’s palm.
The father’s hand shook, and the son’s hand shook. Father welcomed son into the Marine Corps.
“It was just a breathtaking moment between father and son, Marine and Marine,” Daniel Lowe said.
For Jack Lowe, the extent of the ceremony came as a surprise. He had assumed the honorary Marine title was just that: a title, mostly awarded to little kids.
“To actually know that I’m a part of the Marine Corps, it’s just wonderful,” he said.
“Almost immediately it became obvious that the biggest problem wouldn’t be finding a ball for Jack to attend, but picking which one,” wrote Kyle Gunn, a Marine veteran and Task & Purpose social media editor.
Jack Lowe ended up attending the one thrown by Marine Forces Reserve’s Combat Logistics Regiment 45 on Saturday in nearby Atlanta. Marines even secured him a set of dress blues.
At the ball, Col. Kurt Boyd called Jack Lowe’s name and asked him to wave, and the Marines stood and clapped for him. The honorary Marine gave them what he described as “a parade wave.”
Then the Marines started cheering for him: “Semper Fi. Happy birthday, Devil Dog. Ooh-rah.”
“You know how us Marines get real loud?” Daniel Lowe said. “The room literally echoed and shook a little bit.”
He and Davis broke down crying.
Sgt. Maj. John Miller, the guest speaker at the ball, told the crowd about his own eagle, globe and anchor insignia, Daniel Lowe recalled. At the end of the speech, the sergeant major handed Jack Lowe that eagle, globe and anchor.
Miller looked the teenager right in the eye, Daniel Lowe recalled, and said, You’re right where you need to be. Among your fellow Marines.
Afterward, so many Marines and sailors came up to Jack Lowe to wish him a happy Marine Corps birthday and thank him for coming that it became overwhelming for the honorary Marine, Daniel Lowe said. They had accepted him as one of their kind.
“I had a blast,” Jack Lowe said.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.