WARREN, R.I. — Hundreds of mourners lined Main Street on Sunday as they waited to enter the wake of Army Master Sergeant Peter Andrew McKenna Jr., who was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan.
Outside St. Mary of the Bay Church, where the wake was held, flags hung at half-staff along the street. Police cars flashed red, white, and blue as light rain fell on mourners seeking to pay their last respects.
Chris Walden, a family friend from Bristol, remembered McKenna as an “incredibly wonderful soldier and son.”
“He wasn’t a person to draw attention to himself,” Walden said. “That’s what real heroes are about, serving a higher purpose than personal goals.”
Just a month ago, McKenna, 35, attended the Bristol Fourth of July celebration, where he was awarded for traveling the farthest for the parade in his hometown.
A few days later, McKenna shipped back to Afghanistan, where he had previously served five tours with the Army, US Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said last week.
McKenna was killed by small-arms fire on Aug. 7 during an attack on a military facility in Kabul, the Department of Defense said in a statement last week.
“He was due to rotate out in September,” said Chief Petty Officer Len Wruk, who said he served with McKenna at Camp Integrity, where he was killed.
“He was a very assertive, confident, competent leader — one of the finest soldiers I’ve ever known,” Wruk said.
Marvin Abney, a state representative for Newport and Middletown, called McKenna “America’s treasure.” He met the soldier last month at the Bristol Yacht Club, where they bonded over the military.
“We talked about how young people today still serve their country as their grandfathers did before them, and how every generation does their duty,” Abney said.
“You’re standing next to a person, talking to him, and a month later he’s killed.”
McKenna served in the First Battalion of the Army’s Seventh Special Forces Group, based out of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the Department of Defense said. He served as an infantryman after graduating from Mt. Hope High School in 1998 and later joined the Green Berets, the nickname for the Army’s Special Forces.
McKenna had a “radiant, sly smile” that “could light up a room,” said his friend Kevin Sloane.
“He’s one of the good human beings in the world, someone so special being taken away,” Sloane said.
Raymond Murray remembered McKenna as a “nice young man” who took his daughter to a high school dance.
Katrina Sloane, his friend of 13 years, described him as a charismatic person who listened to Journey and would “do anything for anybody,” regardless of whether they were friends or family.
The wake drew hundreds of local residents, police officers, and military officers, many of whom did not know McKenna but wanted to honor his memory.
“He’s a fallen hero,” said retired Air Force Master Sergeant Bill Correia, of Venice, Fla. “We’d go anywhere to honor him.”
A funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Mary of the Bay Church in Warren. A burial with military honors will follow in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bristol.
Rosa Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.