Saturday, February 03, 2007

Paul Kelly laid to rest

AQUIA Col. Paul M. Kelly was remembered as a devoted family man and soldier yesterday as hundreds mourned the highest-ranking National Guard member to die in a combat theater in the Iraq war.

"Paul loved his family, his God, his soldiers, his country," the Rev. David P. Meng told more than 800 mourners, among them Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, at St. William of York Catholic Church in Stafford County.

Kelly, 45, was among 12 soldiers who died Jan. 20 when the UH-60 Black Hawk in which they were flying went down northeast of Baghdad, military officials said. Kelly went to Iraq in August and had been expected to return home next month.

Kelly's wife, Maria, and the couple's two young sons followed his casket into the church after it was blessed with holy water and draped in an ivory-colored pall.

Five-year-old John Joseph clutched his mother's neck as she held him. Paul David, 9, wore a leather bomber-type jacket.

Kelly was not piloting the helicopter that crashed, resulting in the highest number of National Guard fatalities in a single combat incident since at least the Korean War, according to the National Guard.

The boys wrote messages to their father, which were included in yesterday's printed program along with a drawing of a man in a helicopter with "Go Dad!" written beside it.

"Dear Dad," Paul wrote. "I just wanted to tell you I miss you a lot. I was looking forward to Play foot Ball with you. You're my Best friend and the Best Dad ever. We miss you. Love, Paul your son."

John, known as J.J., wrote, "Dear Dad, I love you. I want to wrestle with you when its night time. I want to go food shopping with you and buy lunchables. I want to go to Batman begins Movie with you. Love, J.J."

Meng told the gathering that although they may feel sadness and even anger, heaven welcomes Kelly. "A brother has come home," he said.

Kelly followed his father, a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, into the military. He was commissioned as an officer through the University of Dayton's ROTC program and spent his career in staff and leadership positions with the Guard, serving in Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia.

He was assigned to Joint Force Headquarters-Virginia, with active duty at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington. He had served in Bosnia, as had Virginia Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian, who also died in the crash.

Kelly is to be buried this morning at Arlington National Cemetery, and Booker is scheduled to be buried there tomorrow.

A sweet, pungent smell wafted through the sanctuary yesterday as the pastor swung a censer, dispensing incense-laced smoke around Kelly's casket near the end of the service.

Mourners sang the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" as the colonel's wife and sons departed down the center aisle. The casket was then draped with an American flag and placed by an honor guard into the back of a silver-colored hearse, where Maria Kelly, standing and holding J.J., reached out with her older son to touch the coffin.

From the Dispatch

Related Link:
Paul M. Kelly killed in helicopter crash