Doris McDowell said few people understand the needs of family members of military members who have been killed or injured, unless they have experienced it.
“It was a very tragic, very heartbreaking, very stressful time,” she said.
That is why she and her family strongly support the Wounded Warrior Family Foundation, which was founded in Montgomery by Lt. Col. Thomas Doane (U.S. Air Force, retired) and now has locations in many other places.
She and her family mark the anniversary of her son’s death in various ways, such as giving donations to scholarships and attending memorials at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Washington D.C.
McDowell said that on this year, the 30th anniversary, her family wanted to do something special in north Jefferson since Gardendale is the family’s hometown.
Many of the family members ride motorcycles, including McDowell’s husband Roy McDowell, who used to ride with the motorcycle corps with the Shriners.
She said that is why she thought of Kennedy and his motorcycle ministry, which in five years has expanded to 14 chapters and five honorary chapters.
McDowell said the families of six other Alabama service members who were killed in the Beirut bombing have been invited to the service. The military members are Lance Corporal William (Bill) Stelpflug of Auburn, Pfc. James Price of Attalla, Corporal Terry Lee Hudson of Pritchard, Corporal Leonard Walker of Dothan, Pfc. Jeffrey Todd Hattaway of Center Point and Corporal Shannon Dale Biddle of Dothan. She has been unable to locate any family members or friends of another Alabama service member, Corporal Henry Townsend Jr. of Montgomery.
McDowell said her son, who was 21 when he died, loved people, especially children.
“He had a heart for children,” said McDowell, adding that he volunteered at a children’s home near Camp Lejeune on his off days. “He was wonderful, but he was a typical young man. He did all the things that teenagers do sometimes.”