10 years later, wife reflects on soldier’s death

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kyran E. Kennedy poses next to a helicopter in this undated family photograph. Kennedy, 43, Hopkinsville, was killed along with five other members of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) when the Black Hawk helicopter he was piloting crashed Nov. 7, 2003. An investigation was underway Nov. 9, 2003, to determine whether mechanical failure or hostile fire caused the crash, but several officers believed the Black Hawk was shot down.

Ten years ago, Nov. 7, a Black Hawk helicopter carrying six American soldiers — four of whom were from Fort Campbell — was shot down in Iraq as it made its way from Mosul to Tikrit.

None of the men aboard the aircraft survived the attack. Their deaths marked the first of Fort Campbell’s casualties in Iraq by enemy fire.

Fort Campbell hosted a memorial service Saturday to honor and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the deaths of the Black Hawk’s crew, Chief Warrant Officer Kyran Kennedy, 43; Staff Sgt. Paul Neff, 30; Staff Sgt. Scott Rose, 30; and Capt. Benedict Smith, 29.

Their family members, friends and fellow soldiers were invited.

Among the family who attended the remembrance ceremony was Kathy Kennedy, wife of Kyran Kennedy, who was the pilot in command on the day the helicopter was shot down. Their youngest son, Kevin, also attended.

“It was a great ceremony,” she said. “They did a really nice job … They had really nice speakers and prayers by the chaplain, and I got to see a lot of faces I hadn’t seen in a long time.”

At the end of the service, family members were invited to place roses at the trunks of the four trees that were planted in 2003 in remembrance of the men.

A reception followed and guests were invited to one of the hangars where they could check out some of the aircraft and socialize.

Kathy’s husband had been on deployment for eight months when he was killed.

The time leading up to Kyran’s deployment was challenging for him and his family, she remembers.

There were a lot of days when they said goodbye, believing he would go to Iraq that day, only to have him come home that evening saying the deployment had been delayed.

“It was very difficult … there was so much back and forth and feeling like a yo-yo,” she said.

The day Kathy found out her husband’s plane had been shot down; she had just finished homeschool with her kids.

“We had just finished Bible reading at the time” she said. “We had been reading the book of John … and I had just told the kids to go play when I heard the dogs bark.”

Kathy went to the door and saw men approaching wearing “class As” and she knew that her husband had been killed.

“I knew without them even saying anything,” she said. “It was hard, but there’s a lot of great people (in Hopkinsville) and within in minutes it seemed the house was flooded with people who did everything from bringing food to cleaning my toilets. They did whatever they could do, and it was a great outpouring of support from the entire community.”

In the 10 years that have followed her husband’s death, Kathy said that she and her family have relied on their faith to keep going.

“I truly believe that God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle,” she said. “And, when I felt like I couldn’t handle it I realized ‘oh wait a minute, maybe I need to adjust where I’m at in my faith and re-adjust my thought process.’”

Most of all she said, losing their dad has been hard on her children, especially the youngest son who is 13 years old and doesn’t have many memories of his father.

“With each child it’s been a process and with myself it’s been a process and it still is,” she said. “There are days when I just find myself feeling low, you know, I miss him, he was my soul mate.”

Kathy describes her family’s journey over the past 10 years as a walk of faith.

“We have a really strong faith and that has made a world of difference,” she said. “I think that Gandhi said, ‘if it were not for my faith, I would be a raving maniac,’ and that’s exactly how I feel.”

Reach Kat Russell at 270-887-3241 or krussell@kentuckynewera.com.

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