Sunday, July 01, 2007

Joe Kenny comes home

A small white plane touched down at 11:13 a.m. Saturday at the Eugene Airport, delivering Joe Kenny home for the last time, one week after he died.

His mother, his siblings, his friends, and his comrades, gathered near the runway this sunny Saturday, embracing one another while bracing for the sight every military family dreads.

Slowly, deliberately, workers prepared to unload the flag-draped coffin.

The silent sobs of his mother, Linda Peterson-Phillips Smith of Veneta, and sister, Jennifer Graves, of Issaquah, Wash., became audible cries as white stars and red stripes came into view through the door of the plane.

The 20-year-old, remembered for his spirit and his ability to draw a smile, was mourned with tears.

Peterson-Phillips Smith cradled a small girl in her arms, shaking her head in anguish, while her son Michael Kenny placed his large hands on each of her shoulders. Graves covered her face with an open hand, her other arm around the neck of Joe Kenny's fiancee, Ashley Brodkorb.

Six honor guards in dress uniform carefully lifted the coffin's silver handles with both hands. Walking in time to the waiting hearse, they carried the Army specialist, who died June 23 in Mosul, Iraq, in an undisclosed noncombat incident still under investigation.

Fellow soldiers raised their hands in salute as loved ones brought tissues to their eyes.

"He was a very family-oriented individual, had a tightknit group of friends and was a very loyal individual," said Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Cotner, military liaison to Kenny's family. "He had all the right stuff."

As the white hearse rolled away, those gathered hugged each other before they returned to their cars, joining a funeral procession flanked by 50 motorcycles from Patriot Guard Riders, a veterans' group. Five Harleys at the front rode in missing man formation.

Traffic slowed below 20 mph as Kenny's body traveled to West Lawn Memorial Park & Funeral Home on west Eugene roads the Veneta native had surely driven countless times.

Construction workers removed their hard hats. Small children ran out onto their lawns. Motorists pulled over in deference.

"The biggest thing is that (the family) doesn't want Joseph to be forgotten - what he stood for and what he did," Cotner said.

From the Register Guard

Related Link:
Joseph P. Kenny dies 'of injuries suffered from a non-combat related incident'