Monday, June 07, 2010

Army Spc. Brendan P. Neenan

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Brendan P. Neenan, 21, of Enterprise, Ala.

Spc Neenan was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died June 7, 2010 in Jelawar, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

Selfless.... That is how the family of Army Specialist Brendan Neenan remembered him Tuesday, one day after the 21-year-old Enterprise soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

“He was always worried about his dad, worried about everybody,” said Lesa Neenan, his stepmother. “His job in life was to make everything amusing and lighten our loads.”

Specialist Neenan was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne. Neenan’s decision to join the Army dates back to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

“He was just a boy, but when he saw those towers go down, he made up his mind about what to do and pursued it,” said his father, Hugh Neenan.

The military is a tradition in the Neenan family, with Brendan Neenan’s father and grandfather both serving as infantry paratroopers. Hugh Neenan gave his son his grandfather’s wings after he graduated jump school.

Although Neenan’s service took him into danger, his first concern was always the welfare of his family and friends. When a cousin asked Neenan on Facebook what he needed, Neenan asked the cousin to keep in contact with his stepmother.

“He just had the sweetest heart,” Lesa Neenan said.

Brendan Neenan’s brother, Tim, remembers that Neenan would frequently call him asking about his work as a stand-up comic and comedy writer in Los Angeles.

“He would always ask if I was making it or if I was alright,” he said. “He would listen to me whining about all this stuff that didn’t really matter. He was worried about me struggling at this silly job that I could quit at any time.”

Spc. Neenan was just seven days from being pulled off the line in Afghanistan when he was killed.

“When Brendan joined, I was terrified,” Hugh Neenan said. “I offered to give him a piggyback ride to the Air Force recruiter or the Coast Guard recruiter. He said there’s bad guys out there and he decided to go airborne to protect his country. He was absolutely on the tip of the spear—that’s rare.

The Neenan family has been touched by more than its share of tragedy. Brendan Neenan lost his mother to breast cancer more than a decade ago. His stepbrother Jeremy Jackson was killed in a car accident in 2006. Now they’re grieving for another loss, while also honoring his service and sacrifice.

“I was proud of him the day he was born, and I’ll be proud of him the rest of my life,” Hugh Neenan said.

His father, Hugh Neenan, said Brendan always put everyone else first, even back in his childhood.

"He just always looked out for everyone," said Hugh Neenan, from his home in Enterprise. "There wasn't a mean bone in his body."

Brendan was the third generation of his family to serve in the Army. His father and grandfather preceded him, said Hugh Neenan, who is 51 and retired from the military.

"He's going to be brought back home where he grew up," Neenan said. "He went to high school and community college here while waiting to join the Army."

Brendan joined the Army in 2007, his father said, out of a sense of family pride and love.

The young man's body arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday.

His father describes him as someone who loved to come home and enjoy the country life when he could. His favorite hobbies included riding on a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle and shooting his guns.

Neenan plans to have Brendan cremated and a service held for him at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Enterprise, where Brendan had been an alter server as a child.

"We're just all so incredibly proud of him," Neenan said. "We're going to miss him for the rest of our lives."

Army Spc. Brendan P. Neenan was killed in action on 6/7/10.

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