I may have forgotten the date, but I’ve never forgotten the day. The day that my friend Kathy, heard the news that her beloved Kyran was killed in the war. They were a homeschooling family. He had already been gone 9 months in a deployment to Iraq as a Blackhawk pilot for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
We were in the planning stages for our move to the country. We knew nothing about living in the country – NOTHING. The Kennedys were our homesteading homeschooling friends. They were the first people that we ever knew that had a cow named Rump Roast to remind everyone that he was going into the freezer someday. They killed their own chickens and turkeys… at their house… and then ate them. I thought there were laws against that. They purposely kept bees. They didn’t swat them or worry about getting stung. They valued them for how they pollenated the plants and created healthy honey. They introduced us to a lot of things. We were really hoping that Kyran would come out and help us do some work around the farm and teach us a few things.
He had taught Joe how to play chess along with his son, Chris. He had invited our homeschool group out to the Army airfield so that he could let the kids sit in the helicopter, teach them about how it was used and answer their questions. Facing a group of moms with children of all ages may have intimidated lesser men. But Kyran in his usual laidback, fun-loving manner was a natural. Chris and Joe explored the Blackhawk with the other excited children while his daughter Katie just took it all in stride. Katie and my Jake were just preschoolers at the time so they may not remember that day, but I’ve got a picture with all of them gathered around the helicopter listening to Kyran. And then came the last baby for each of us. Kyran and Kathy had Kevin while Tony and I had Jonathan. I can remember Kathy and Kyran coming over to our house when Kevin was just an infant. That was before he went to Korea for a year. I thought that was pretty rough. I couldn’t imagine how Kathy was going to make it without Kyran to help for so long. He was such a great dad. I remember that for a little bit Kevin was sleeping in the infant carrier while we ate. Kyran was watching him and I made some comment about how tough it was going to be for him missing some of those firsts. He said that he’d been talking to Kevin and telling him not to walk before he got home. He told Kathy to tie some weights around his ankles or something. And then as Kevin started fussing, Kyran held him and tried to entertain him for a while so that Kathy could eat. Yep, he was an officer and a gentleman.
So just that week before Kyran died, Chris was talking to Joe about all of the plans that he and his dad had made for when he returned. Plans to go camping and hunting. Father/son kind of stuff. But then those men in uniform showed up at their door. They had already been doing school that day like normal and then those men showed up at their door with the news that changed their lives.
Quickly we all did what we could to gather around them. Homeschooling friends, church friends, military friends and family. While none of our grief could compare with Kathy, the kids and their family, we grieved too. Kyran was a great guy. And yes he loved flying helicopters. But he wanted to come home. We all wanted him to come home. So many prayers had been lifted up for his protection and safe return home. Many of us had a lot of explaining to do to our kids about why God allowed Mr. Kyran to die. Many of us struggled with the same questions in our own way.
We all rallied together though, knowing that Kyran was a strong Christian and that truly he was home- at the home we all long for. He was in a better place, but we were the ones left in the place that just wasn’t as great without him in it. Nonetheless, we just had to be thankful for the fun, sense of adventure, great talks and friendships that we all shared because of him. He had made every place that he had been a better place because he cared about others and was always doing something.
I don’t think that I’ve ever grieved for someone outside of my family like I did for Kyran. I grieved because my family had looked forward to many more great times with them. I grieved because my friend’s heart was broken and she was facing the future as a single parent. I grieved because their kids had lost their dad. I grieved because I realized that five other families that day had lost men in their lives too. It made me look at my husband and my three sons differently and with new appreciation.
Kathy and Kyran didn’t have regrets. They had loved each other deeply and valued their relationship. I guess when your husband is going up in a helicopter in rough territory so often, it kind of puts perspective on the petty things. I’m sure their only regret was that they didn’t have more time together. At least the time that they had together was rich. And so all of us touched by Kyran, Kathy and the kids’ love, were reminded to cherish our relationships and not to take our days together for granted.
So as I realized that it’s actually been two years already, I can’t believe that I missed the actual date. I only know that the date wasn’t what was so important to me and to so many others. What we remember is Kyran, Kathy, Chris, Kaitlyn and Kevin. We remember their family’s sacrifice for our country and for the Iraqi people. When the Iraqi people showed their blue fingers as proof that they had gotten to vote, we remembered what it took to help them achieve that freedom. Losing a husband and father is a lot of sacrifice to ask from one family, but Kyran leaves a legacy of unselfish love. And we are all challenged to love and serve others more no matter the cost.
Greater love hath no man than this,that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Army Chief Warrant Officer, CW3 Kyran E. Kennedy
Here is a great story that our local paper did about Kyran.
And this is a great one about the one year anniversary.