Saturday, January 20, 2007

Army Col. Paul M. Kelly

Remember Our Heroes

Army Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Va.

Col. Kelly was assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters of the Virginia Army National Guard in Blackstone, Va.; died in Baghdad on Jan. 20 when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter he was in crashed.

The Mercury News -- Col. Paul M. Kelly was nicknamed "the Senator" because he was always shaking soldiers' hands, no matter their rank, colleagues said.

The Carroll High School and University of Dayton graduate was among the 12 soldiers killed when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed northeast of Baghdad last Saturday.

Kelly, 45, is one of the most senior Army officers to die in Iraq. He was a mentor to many coming up through the ranks, soldiers said.

Sgt. 1st Class Arturo Robinson remembered how years ago, when he was getting into disciplinary trouble, Kelly told him to take a hard look at the way he was acting.

It was the sort of command that officers give their soldiers all the time — and often it goes ignored. But something about the way Kelly said it — firmly but with respect — got through to Robinson.

"He saved my career," Robinson said. "I would walk behind him in any war, in any place."

Tuesday in Al Asad, Iraq, nearly 200 members of the Virginia National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, gathered in a chapel at their base west of Baghdad to mourn Kelly and the others who died.

Kelly's parents, John and Mary Rose Kelly, and two of his five siblings, Patrick and Theresa, live in Beavercreek.

His brother John, who lives in Boston, recalled a man who cherished the soldiers he worked with.

"Every time we communicated with him, he'd ask us to pray for all the soldiers doing a great job out there," John Kelly said.

"He was extremely caring and dedicated both to the profession and his family and friends. He loved what he did, and he loved his country."

Kelly, of Stafford, Va., was deployed to Iraq with the National Guard last fall and was to come home in March.

Army Col. Paul M. Kelly was killed in action on 1/20/07.

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