Saturday, March 24, 2007

John F. Landry Jr. dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Standing in the kitchen of her Lowell home, Pamela Landry remembered a line from a letter that her son, Private First Class John Landry Jr., had written recently as he bragged about hitting a perfect 6-for-6 score on a marksmanship test.

"Don't worry about me, mom," Pamela Landry said, quoting from the letter as she broke down in tears. "I'll be OK."

Landry, 20, an Army rifleman, was killed Saturday during combat in Iraq, his family said yesterday.

He was 20 and the first serviceman from Lowell to be killed in the war.

He had been serving on the front lines with the Second Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment of the First Calvary Division since Oct. 31.

Landry had just spent more than two weeks in Florida on leave with his parents. He said goodbye to his mother and father March 7 and headed back to the war.

"He was only back there eight days," said Pamela Landry. "He was a good kid."

Soon after graduating from Lowell Catholic High School in 2005, Landry began training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was based in Texas at Fort Bliss, his mother said.

Landry had talked about joining the military throughout most of his high school career, said Principal Maryellen DeMarco.

DeMarco recalled one of her last conversations with Landry at a school football game last fall, soon after he learned of his assignment. "He said, 'I'm going to make you proud. I'm going to serve my country.' "

Landry's mother said her son came from a military family; his father, John, was a Marine, and his grandfather was a member of the 82d Airborne Division. When he completed his military service, Landry's mother said, her son wanted to become a law enforcement officer for a federal agency.

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Lowell Catholic spent part of last week assembling a care package for Landry. They had planned to send the package this week. "He worked so hard to get himself ready," said Donna Deveau, director of advancement at Lowell Catholic. "To serve his country really meant a lot to him."

Throughout high school, Landry was a leader, Deveau said. He was a member of the student council, the campus ministry, and served as a student ambassador. He also played on the school's basketball and football teams.

On the football field, Landry was an intimidating force as a lineman, standing 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 240 pounds , but off the field, he was a gentle giant, Deveau said.

"He was a big teddy bear of a boy who just saw the good in everybody," said Deveau, whose children played on the football team with Landry. "He was actually at our Thanksgiving football game last year. He came back a lot when he had the chance. If he was home on leave he made it a point to come in to the school and see everybody."

When he was home on leave, Landry would see his sister, Britney, and his 3-year-old nephew, Donovan, his mother said.

US Representative Martin T. Meehan , Democrat of Lowell, released a statement calling Landry a "courageous, brave young man."

Lowell's mayor, William F. Martin Jr., said the thoughts and prayers of the town are with Landry's family.

"It's terribly sad to lose someone so young with his whole life ahead of him," Martin said.

Officials at Lowell Catholic decided to change the theme of a Mass said yesterday to honor Landry after they learned of his death Sunday night.

"We're a small school," said Deveau, "but John made a big mark."

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