BRISTOL, R.I. — When First Sergeant Andrew McKenna was home in Bristol last month for a Fourth of July celebration, he seemed upbeat, and confident, according to a neighbor.
“We had a really nice talk,” said John Mylnek, 53, who lives across from the soldier’s family. “He was passionate about the work he was doing, and enthusiastic to get back to it.”
A few days later, McKenna shipped off to Afghanistan for his sixth tour with the Army; it would be his last. McKenna, a Green Beret, was killed Friday during an attack on a coalition facility in Kabul, the Department of Defense said in a statement Sunday. He was 35.
McKenna’s mother, Carol, answered her Cliff Drive door Sunday afternoon with tears in her eyes and said she was “too emotional” to speak about her son.
She said she was about to leave for Dover, Del., where she would receive her son’s body at the Air Force base there.
“I am devastated,” she said.
She and her husband, Peter, lost their only other child in August 2005. Patrick McKenna, 21, died in a motorcycle crash, according to a classified death notice.
Two attacks in Kabul Friday killed scores and injured hundreds. A truck laden with explosives was detonated near the wall of an Afghan army base, leaving 15 dead and 400 injured early Friday morning. That evening, a suicide bomber targeted the police academy, killing at least 26 recruits, and injuring 27 people, according to the Khaama Press, an Afghan news agency.
It was not clear which attack took McKenna’s life.
McKenna joined the Army as an infantryman upon graduating from Mt. Hope High School in 1998. He was promoted to sergeant in Special Forces Operations and served with the First Battalion Seventh Special Forces Group, officials said.
A friend of McKenna’s, Evan Chelini, said he was “a great human being.”
“From the bottom of my heart, he was just a good person,” Chelini said. “The world is a worse place without him in it.”
US Senator Jack Reed, who is an Army veteran, met McKenna last month at a town Fourth of July celebration and said he was “humbled to have met such an extraordinary soldier.” McKenna received an award at the event for having traveled the farthest to attend, Reed said.
“He had an incredible source of pride and dedication to himself and his country,” the Rhode Island Democrat said in a phone interview Sunday. “This is a profound loss for Rhode Island.”
McKenna completed five tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq during 17 years of active duty in the Army, Reed said.
Mylnek said McKenna had planned to make his career in the military and retire after 20 years of service.
“He was easy to talk with, just an outgoing, happy, genuinely nice guy,” Mylnek said.
Nearly every home on Cliff Drive displayed an American flag Sunday, many at half staff.
Memorial services for McKenna have not yet been scheduled, but probably will be held in the next week, Reed said.
“He will have the full memorial he deserves,” Reed said.Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.