Sunday, June 2, 2019

Days after becoming 1st LT, tragic loss for Camp Pendleton couple

After military vehicle accident kills Marine from Maryland, love story turns into tragedy

Associated Press
June 2, 2019

But on Thursday, May 9, no message came. Kathleen grew more nervous as the hours rolled by. She used an app to check his location, and it kept showing that his phone was in an office. By 2:30 a.m. the next morning, the phone's location had not changed.

This Aug. 18, 2018, photo provided by Kathleen Bourque shows Conor McDowell and Kathleen Bourque. The couple's love story ended in tragedy when the military vehicle McDowell was riding in flipped over and killed him in May 2019. (Kathleen Bourque via AP)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One day in March 2018, a profile on the dating app Hinge caught Kathleen Bourque's eye. The photo showed Conor McDowell, a tall, bright-eyed Citadel cadet in uniform. He was at a ring ceremony, his mother by his side.

Kathleen, then 21, was moved to send Conor a message: "This is honestly such a beautiful photo."

It was three months before she heard back from him.

"He said, 'I'm so sorry, I just finished the infantry officer course for the Marine Corps,' " Kathleen recalled. "He said his friend had set up his (Hinge) profile for him and he was still figuring out how it worked."

The two of them texted back and forth for hours that night, conversing about their shared Irish heritage and a common passion: the need for better mental health care in the military.

The next night, they had their first phone conversation. Conor, a former Chestertown resident, was visiting a friend in Rhode Island. Kathleen had just graduated from Loyola University in Baltimore, where she had studied mental health in the military, and she was living with her parents in Salisbury.

From 10:30 p.m. until 6 a.m., they talked about their childhoods, their families, their dreams. Night after night, the marathon phone conversations went on like that.

"He was just so genuine, you felt you could open up to him about anything and everything," Kathleen said.
On Tuesday, she got a call from Conor, who had just gotten good news at Camp Pendleton: He'd been promoted to first lieutenant. But he didn't want to put on his new pin yet. He wanted to wait until he was back home with Kathleen so that she could do it.

"I only have a couple of seconds to talk," she recalled him telling her. "But I want to tell you how much I love you. How much I miss you."
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