MANCHESTER — The town rehung a banner over Main Street Friday. A gesture of welcome to Persian Gulf soldiers, the banner is a patriotic symbol Sandra Bowman, the proud mother of a U.S. Army specialist, worked hard to see put in place.
But the banner will not welcome home her son, Charles L. Bowman Jr., the way the mother of three had hoped.
The 20-year-old Bowman was killed Tuesday in southern Iraq after a bomblet exploded in his hand. He became the first Carroll County and the sixth Maryland soldier killed in the Persian Gulf war.
His remains will be returned to the United States in seven to 10 days. Thefamily plans a military funeral and will bury their son at Gettysburg National Cemetery, near the battlefield they often visited for picnics and camping.
Bowman, the 112th non-combat U.S. death in the war, joined the Army after graduating from North Carroll High, where heparticipated in wrestling and track. He was a mechanic for Bradley fighting vehicles in the 3rd Armored Division.
"He really liked what he was doing," said his mother, a cook at the Dutch Corner Restaurant on Main Street. "He felt it was his job. He never complained aboutbeing over there."
He had been stationed in Friedburg, Germany, and was deployed to the gulf shortly after Thanksgiving. The Bowmans last saw their tall and lanky son when he surprised them with a visit last fall.
Details of his death are still not known. His family learned from military officials Wednesday and Thursday that Bowman had picked up a bomblet -- a baseball-sized explosive dispersed by largercluster bombs dropped from the air. When he put it down, it exploded.
"There was no other explanation," his mother said.
The couplehad no regrets about their son joining the Army. His father, CharlesL. Bowman Sr., a Vietnam veteran, said he did not try to talk his son of his decision.
"He did a terrific job," said Bowman, a mechanic at McDonogh School in Baltimore County. "He did what was necessary.I still feel that way."
Bowman's death sent shock waves through this close-knit community and the schools he attended.
"We told herall along he was safe," said Dean Fuhrman, owner of the Dutch CornerRestaurant, shaking his head. "He was a mechanic. What was going to happen to a mechanic?"
Fuhrman said Sandra Bowman worked hard to raise money to buy the banner for Main Street. She lobbied businesses for donations and had even placed a donation canister in the restaurant.
"People really backed it," he said of the banner, which was taken down in recent days for mending.
Fuhrman described the Bowmansas a close-knit family.
"She was worried about him all the time. Any parent would be in that situation," Fuhrman said. "It's sad. That's about the best way you can put it. He's the only one in Carroll County to have had this misfortune."
Bowman visited the restaurant regularly during his last visit. His sister, Laura, 22, worked there as a waitress. His parents live on Main Street, not far from the restaurant.
Donald Ripley, who taught Bowman in the auto mechanics program at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, recalled the soldier as a "very good student to work with. He was nice to be around."
Steve Guthrie, a guidance counselor at North Carroll High, said Bowman was a quiet student, whose forte seemed to be working with his hands. Bowman took classes in wood shop and power technology.
Guthrie said school officials were concerned about Bowman's younger brother, Bill, a 17-year-old senior.
"We're worried about how he is taking this," Guthrie said.
Alan Abbott, an assistant principal atNorth Carroll, said school officials planned to attend the funeral. He said there were no plans for a memorial service at the school, where support for Carroll soldiers ran high during the military buildup and Operation Desert Storm.
"We'll have to wait and see what direction to take," he said.