Monday, August 30, 2010

Army Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Kessler

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Kessler, 32, of Canton, Ohio

SSgt. Kessler was assigned to 4th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.; died Aug. 30, 2010 in the Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed in the attack were Army Pfc. Chad D. Clements, Army Capt. Dale A Goetz, Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Infante and Army Staff Sgt. Matthew J. West.

Army Staff Sgt. Kevin James Kessler, 32, of Canton, died Monday in the Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He died with four other soldiers from the Fort Carson unit in the attack.

Kessler was a motor transport operator who entered the Army in June 2004. He served two tours in Iraq in addition to his deployment to Afghanistan earlier this summer.

He had been awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and the Army Commendation Medal. Kessler was a member of the 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

"He wanted to serve America," said his sister, Emily Lightner, the Canton Repository reported. His stepmother, Sue Kessler, added: "If [his troops] were there, he wanted to be there with them.

"He wanted to watch their backs, like they would watch his."

Kessler was a 1996 graduate of East Canton High School, serving as class vice president.

His family threw him a party before he left the country in early July. It was a celebration, of sorts, the Repository reported. His wife, Adrian, had found out she was pregnant, and they shared the news with the entire family.

His uncle Richard Kessler is reminded of a quote on life that Abraham Lincoln said: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

“Kevin had some good years in his life,” Kessler said of his nephew Thursday.

His alma mater, East Canton High School, added Kevin Kessler’s name to a Memory Garden at the new Osnaburg Local School District facility Thursday. Kessler graduated from the school in 1996.

School officials said several of Kessler’s relatives attended the ceremony, which included the dedication of the new school building. A moment of silence was observed during the ceremony.

Prior to the Army, Kessler drove truck for the now-closed Fleming Foods plant in Massillon, his uncle said. He joined the Army on June 2, 2004.

His death has the close-knit family stunned. “You want to believe it’s not true, but it is,” said Kessler’s uncle, Rich. “It’s definitely surreal.”

Kessler’s wife, Adrian, is pregnant with their first child. The couple had tried for several years to start a family, relatives said. Another uncle, Barney Kessler, said his nephew could not wait to return home and be a father. “He was pretty excited.”

Both uncles had fond memories of their nephew, someone they said transformed from a fun, but ornery boy to a family man. They were reminded of their nephew’s audacious actions as a youngster to get autographs of his favorite Denver Broncos players.

As a young boy in 1991, Kevin Kessler loved the Broncos. Later in life, he became a diehard Cleveland Browns fan. Both uncles said their nephew went with them to watch the Broncos play in the Hall of Fame game at Fawcett Stadium. Their nephew wanted autographs.

Following the game, Kevin Kessler snuck away from his family. His uncles looked high and low for him. Where did they find him? On the field. Kessler, with a football card, went right up to quarterback John Elway and got his autograph, the uncles said. He also got autographs from the Broncos’ famed “Three Amigos” wideout corps — Ricky Nattiel, Mark Jackson and Vance Johnson.

Kessler did get into hot water with his family for his action. Barney Kessler said his nephew should not have wandered away. But he also said of Kevin Kessler, “He wasn’t afraid.

“He’s going to be missed.” Rich Kessler added, “We won’t forget him.”

''We are very proud of him,'' said Chris Corbi, the former principal for East Canton High School and now the operations manager at the school district.

''He was just well respected by all the staff and his fellow students,'' Corbi said. ''He always had a smile.''

Superintendent Melissa Marconi also said Kessler ''is remembered for his warm smile.''

Friend Jason Mills, 33, of Canton Township, said Kessler had a smile that would ''light up the room.''

He loved the Cleveland Browns, Pink Floyd and traveling, Mills said.

''It is heartbreaking,'' he said. ''It makes me want to honor him by doing something bigger in my life.''

Kessler, he said, ''set the bar so high.''

Mills said he had a barbecue with Kessler the last time he was home and had no idea it would be the last time he would see him.

''You don't know you are saying goodbye to a person'' for the last time, he said.

Marconi said Kessler's name will be added to the students whose memory is honored in the district's Memory Garden on the school grounds.

''The Osnaburg Local School's family is quite saddened by the death of Kevin Kessler,'' she said by e-mail. ''He was a young man who was well liked by his teachers and classmates.''

Army Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Kessler was killed in action on 8/30/10.

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