Baltimore County dedicates monument for veterans killed in Middle East conflicts

Baltimore County dedicates new monument for veterans killed in Middle East conflicts Saturday.

It's often the simple, routine occurrences, like taking out the trash, that trigger memories of Ursula Palmer's husband, Collin J. Bowen, a National Guardsman who died after he was injured by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan.

Since his death in 2008, Palmer has remarried and relocated to Northern Virginia. "You move forward, you don't move on," she said.

Though she can never escape the loss, she finds comfort in memories of her late husband, and in knowing that others have not forgotten him. On Saturday, she and families of 26 other fallen servicemen and -women who had ties to Baltimore County gathered to dedicate a war memorial outside the Historic Courthouse in Towson.

"It's been almost nine years. It's nice to see people do not forget," Palmer said.

The memorial includes the names of the servicemen and -women from Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 6,400-pound granite monument cost about $100,000, paid for by donations and about $75,000 in state funding. Its jagged edge and beige color represent the desert terrain of the countries where the wars were fought. It is situated near the existing Vietnam Memorial.

Attorney J. Michael Lawlor, a Vietnam veteran who serves as chair of the Baltimore County Monument Commission, suggested the idea of the new memorial to County Councilman David Marks about five years ago.

Lawlor and his wife, Chris, have worked for years to get the monument built. Their nephew, Capt. Michael S. Lawlor, is among the listed names.

Captain Lawlor had served an eight-month tour in Iraq and was preparing to return in 2004 when he was killed. His helicopter crashed during a training exercise near San Diego.

In his remarks to the large crowd that gathered for the ceremony, which closed down a section of Pennsylvania Avenue, J. Michael Lawlor said he hoped the small memorial would provide a place for reflection.

Marks said those named on the memorial join a long line of those who sacrificed for their country.

Also on the list is Marine Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski, who joined in 2001 after graduating from Boys' Latin School, said his mother, Tracy Miller.

She said he had wanted to be in the military since seventh grade.

"He was gorgeous," Miller said, pulling out her cellphone and showing a picture of a smiling young man.

Miller said she had not worried about her son's safety, thinking that because of his extensive training as a sniper, he would be an asset and kept from harm.

She said he volunteered for the last mission he undertook. He was shot by another sniper in Fallujah, Iraq. Ziolkowski was 22.

Miller recalled the Sunday night in 2004 when she heard a knock at her door. Through her front-door peephole, she saw two Marines in dress blue, and she knew her son was dead.

After reading an article in the Towson Times about the proposed monument, she contacted Marks and asked how she could help. She soon became a member of the 10-person executive committee that oversaw the project.

"When our kids die, what we have is our memories. We want them to be remembered," Miller said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who spoke at the ceremony, recalled afterward speaking to several of the mothers.

"It was heartbreaking for me," he said. But, he added, "I could feel that they felt comforted by this memorial."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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