Saturday, April 21, 2007

Adam Kennedy laid to rest

NORFOLK - Army Sgt. Adam Kennedy, felled by a roadside bomb in Iraq last week, was laid to rest Tuesday amid hard rain, stoic salutes and anguished tears.

Hundreds attended the 25-year-old sergeant's funeral at St. Jude's Church, including Gov. Deval Patrick, to collectively mourn and memorialize a son, a brother, and a soldier deemed by attendees as sincere and determined to the end.

Parishioners walking to the church passed a phalanx of squad cars and motorcycles flanking the entrance. Minutes before the funeral began, a lone black horse trotted in the opposite direction, carting an empty glass carriage.

Inside the church, two narrow stained-glass windows center-framed the closed casket, draped in white cloth with a red and gold sash.

An honor guard of seven soldiers sat in a rear pew, their smooth young faces set in a uniformly rigid expression.

Addressing the packed congregation, the Rev. Peter Conley said the turnout was "an expression of the tightness of our community."

Expressing deep sympathy for Kennedy's family, Conley said he "could only begin to imagine the depths of (their) pain."

Alluding to the emotive power of Michaelangelo's famous "Pieta," which depicts the slain body of Jesus in the arms of a young Mary, the pastor spoke of a mother's sorrow in "holding her broken son."

Somewhat elliptically, Conley said he wanted to address "unspoken sentiments" before proceeding.

"Let it not be whispered, let it not even be thought, that Adam Kennedy died in vain," he said, obliquely referring to a growing national dissatisfaction with the Iraq War.

Sidestepping the politics, Conley praised the slain soldier for showing honesty in abiding by a code of honor.

"This was a man who made an oath and kept it," he said.

Following Conley, Colin Kennedy, the sergeant's younger brother, addressed the parish with bittersweet humor.

"Hi, I'm Dan's baby brother," he said. "Adam was my best friend and my hero...What guy had the courage to ruin his brother's senior year?" he asked to laughter.

Recalling his brother's enthusiasm in childhood squirtgun and paintball fights, Colin said it was always clear that his older sibling desired a career in the armed forces.

Six of Kennedy's friends and high school classmates from Xaverian High School echoed the theme of a young man who was both easygoing and resolute.

They said Kennedy exemplified the values of honor, courage, determination, humor, friendship and faith. He performed well in school, graduated first in his class after basic training, and frequently made calls back home after enlisting to check in on his friends, they said.

At the end of the service, state police, clad in black boots and white gloves, clasped their hands behind their backs. The military honor guard gently carried the casket and some onlookers quietly shed tears as it passed them by.

Outside, another group of soldiers stood at attention and held aloft three flags: banners of the United States, the Army and Norwich University, Kennedy's alma mater.

State police saluted the casket - now draped in a U.S. flag and wrapped in plastic to protect it from rain - as soldiers loaded it into the hearse. Bagpipes moaned mournfully in the background.

A mile-long cavalcade followed the hearse into Knoll Memorial Park in Canton, where Canton firemen stood at attention.

Two fire engines, their white ladders stretching into a slate-grey sky, hoisted a massive U.S. flag as vehicles passed underneath.

Bare trees dotted the burial grounds and scattered rust leaves blew slightly on the damp grass. The rain momentarily turned hard and bounced off the tent and umbrellas.

As soldiers brought the casket under the green tent, the pastor and family huddled inside. Strain evident in his voice, Conley implored God to console Kennedy's family and bring them comfort.

Five soldiers hoisted assault rifles and let loose three one-round bursts in quick succession. Their shots were then answered by the solemn tones of bagpipes and a bugler.

Kennedy was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge, among other commendations.

The rifle guard meticulously lifted and folded the flag on Kennedy's casket. A soldier handed the cloth to the soldier's mother, Nancy Smyth, slowly saluting her as she accepted. As the ceremony concluded, Nancy held her son Colin in a long embrace.

Others also began to evince more emotion. Women left flags and flowers on the casket, touching the wood and crying. Several soldiers also placed roses, some crying, others sternly saluting.

Showing a brave face, Colin Kennedy greeted and hugged the soldier's friends as they paid their final respects.

Finally alone under the tent, he leaned onto the casket and burst into tears.

"Adam," the baby brother said, "We had such a short time."

With a few more parting words, he wiped away his tears, gathered himself, and left.

From the Sun Chronicle

Related Link:
Adam P. Kennedy dies of injuries from indirect enemy fire