Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Army Sgt. Nathan P. Kennedy

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Nathan P. Kennedy, 24, of Claysville, Pa.

Sgt. Kennedy was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died April 27, 2010 near Quarando Village, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

A flag outside American Legion Post 639 in Claysville is flying at half-staff today for Army Sgt. Nathan Kennedy, a third-generation soldier and high school wrestling star who was killed this week during combat operations in Afghanistan.

"Nathan was a typical 24-year-old. He liked to party; he enjoyed people; he had such a smile. He loved life," his aunt, Jane Kennedy, said Wednesday at her Claysville home, adorned with an American flag and yellow ribbon.

Soldiers arrived at the home of Nathan Kennedy's father, Joseph Kennedy, late Tuesday afternoon to tell him that his son had been killed, she said.

"Nathan was a wonderful boy, very smart, very intelligent, very good-looking," said his grandmother, Mary Lou Kennedy, who shares her home with Jane Kennedy. "He was never in trouble, no drugs, no nothing; just a good hometown boy."

Nathan Kennedy of Claysville, a 2004 graduate of McGuffey High School, would have turned 25 on May 5. He was stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., which bills itself "The Best 'Hometown' in the Army."

He enlisted four years ago, saw combat operations in Iraq and had just re-enlisted for another four-year term, his aunt said.

The women said Kennedy, a trained sniper and Army Ranger, was deployed to Afghanistan on June 5 and was scheduled to return to the United States in two weeks.

"I think he felt very strongly about doing something positive with his life," said Gary Six, a family friend.

"Nathan never really said why he joined the Army. That's what he wanted to do," Jane Kennedy said. "His grandfather, Henry, was in the military, and my brother was in Vietnam."

"He called his dad every week, sometimes twice a week," Mary Lou Kennedy said. "Once in awhile he'd call, and you'd hear gunfire in the background, but he'd never talk about it."

The Kennedys are a close-knit family who gather every Sunday for dinner at Grandma's house. "He rarely called me Grandma. He usually called me 'Mary Lou' just to torment me. I loved it. That's just the kind of kid he was," Kennedy said of Nathan Kennedy.

Six said Kennedy shared his love of wrestling with his father, vice president of the McGuffey Wrestling Boosters.

"He was the (WPIAL) section champ his freshman, sophomore and junior years. He didn't wrestle his senior year because of a serious knee injury," Six said.

Kennedy won the PIAA Southwestern Regional championship in the 135-pound weight class in his junior year and advanced to the PIAA Championships in Hershey.

He also wrestled with national freestyle wrestling teams during the summer, often traveling to places such as Fargo, N.D., to compete, Six said. "He was a darn good wrestler, that's for sure."

The last time Kennedy saw his family was in February when he came home for a week or so when his twin sister, Noelle Pattison, gave birth to her first child, Emily.

"A lot of times when he came home, he spent much of it with his buddies and friends," Jane Kennedy said. "This time he spent a lot of time with the family. It was nice."

Kennedy was devastated when his mother, Penelope, died nine years ago. Her birthday was April 27, the same day his family learned of his death.

"I think he took it the hardest," Mary Lou Kennedy said. "She's buried in Claysville Cemetery. Now he'll be buried right beside her."

His father and sisters were in Delaware last night to await the return of his body. The family hopes to conduct services at the Post 639 hall.

American flags and yellow ribbons waved outside the Claysville, Washington County, home of Mary Lou Kennedy as the news that her grandson had been killed in Afghanistan was still setting in.

"I couldn't believe it. It's just … unbelievable," said Kennedy.

"That's when it'll hit me, when I see his body," said Kennedy. "It hasn't sunk in yet. You just can't believe that he's gone."

Kennedy will receive full military honors and will be buried in Claysville Cemetery in Washington County next to his mom, who died nine years ago from cancer.

Army Sgt. Nathan P. Kennedy was killed in action on 4/27/10.

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