For generations, Douglas Lowrey's family has served its country.
Now, the Claremore High School graduate has a distinction in the U.S. Army that fits perfectly with his family's service and its Cherokee heritage. In September, Lowrey was promoted to brigadier general, becoming the only Native American general officer on active duty in the Army.
The path to general started more than 25 years ago, after serving in ROTC at Northeastern State. His military career began when he was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1994, back when he was trying to decide his path in life.
"At that time, I didn’t want to be in an office setting, I wanted to get out and do something different," he said. "I don’t know that I can directly tie joining the military to my heritage. It was more of a decision based on the way I was raised. My father’s lineage, going back to my fourth great-grandfather, had always been involved in law enforcement."
Both his grandfathers were Marines, and one was a World War II veteran who "served over 400 days of combat from North Africa to Sicily, came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day, served in the Battle of the Bulge … and was awarded a Bronze Star," Lowrey said in a question-and-answer session provided to the Progress. "I didn’t know this but his grave said he was also awarded the Silver Star."
That's not the only family connection to military service. His father, Grady, served in Vietnam as an Army infantryman before a 30-year career in Oklahoma law enforcement. His brother served three years in the Army.
However, the connections go much further than parents or grandparents. Lowrey can trace his Cherokee roots back to Maj. George “Rising Fawn” Lowrey, an assistant principal chief of the Cherokee Nation in the mid-1800s.
Douglas Lowrey, who was raised in Claremore, can remember spending time with his grandmother, who instilled the importance of his Native American heritage.
"She was a genealogist, not a professional but in her home there was a detailed family tree on about the size of a 4-x-8 sheet of plywood that had our family lineage … going back five or six generations on both sides," Lowrey said. "And as children, she’d go over it with us.
"I’d ask ‘who’s that,’ and ‘who’s that,’ and ‘who’s that’… and she’d talk to me about Native American history, and that’s how I learned about my heritage."
He said his grandfather wrote a book on Cherokee myths and legends, and he also would read that.
Lowrey is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC), managing approximately $205 billion in foreign military sales to partner nations across the globe.
USASAC's foreign military sales mission is a form of security assistance authorized by the Arms Control Act of 1976. It allows the United States to sell defense articles and services to other sovereign nations and international organizations, when the president finds that to do so will strengthen U.S. security and promote world peace. It is a critical component of U.S. foreign policy.
In his role, Lowrey oversees a mission to implement approved U.S. Army Security Assistance programs that include foreign military sales of defense articles and services. The goals include building partner capacity and strengthening U.S.-global partnerships. The command manages cases in over 140 countries, with a total value exceeding $205 billion, along with co-production of Army materiel, according to information provided by the Army.
“Building partner capacity has never been as complex or as critical as it is today. The commander of any logistics organization must be a strong, talented leader. (Lowrey) is a truly dedicated and professional leader, and he comes well prepared for this assignment,” Army Materiel Command’s Gen. Edward Daly said in a press release about Lowrey's promotion.
Lowrey was joined by his father and three young sons at his promotion ceremony.
Lowrey commands USASAC from its headquarters at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. It's just over an hour from Fort Payne, Alabama, a military post that was used to intern Cherokees during their relocation to Oklahoma in the Trail of Tears.
"I am beginning, now more than ever, to look at my past to help guide my future," Lowrey said. "I’m reading a lot about the inclusion of the new arrivals, eastern Cherokee, with the old settlers — those who had gone to Oklahoma earlier, usually as a result of earlier treaties and land cessions during the Trail of Tears."
A message from Lowrey was included in a video of the Smithsonian Institute’s virtual opening ceremony for the National Native American Veterans Memorial on Nov. 11. The memorial is part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. November is Native American Heritage Month, and Lowrey said it provides an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and contributions of Native Americans in the Army and to the country.
"Taking this time to embrace and celebrate diversity is important for every member of our Army — soldiers, civilians and family members — because it is truly our differences that make us the strongest Army in the world," he said. "On a personal level, I find that the older I get, the more I try to research and understand the contributions of Native Americans to society and specifically to my family, the Trail of Tears — where it occurred, how long it took them and the conditions, things like that."
Lowrey said he believes success in the Army takes the same characteristics as success in life. The keys are to have a "great attitude, take pride in what you do, work hard and take initiative. Those are things that transcend all races of people."