The effects of war

Mother of fallen soldier speaking at freedom event

Bonnie Belec
Published on June 26, 2014
Pte. Kevin Kennedy in Afghanistan. The 20-year-old was killed while on patrol in 2007.
— Submitted photo

As someone who is usually such an outgoing, fun-loving woman, it pains Kay Kennedy to be bitter. But as the mother of a young man who was killed in Afghanistan, she says she can’t help it.


“I’ve been robbed, pretty much the same as all the other mothers who have lost a child to war. None of us are happy about it, obviously,” she told The Telegram in a recent interview

“I’m a proud mother, but I’m a bitter mother at times. I’m proud he gave his life for others and for freedom, but as a mother that is very hard to accept.”

Kennedy, who lives in St. Vincent’s, said her sentiments are shared by other parents of Canadian Forces members killed in Afghanistan.

She said in April, more than 150 families gathered in Ottawa to attend a commemorative ceremony where they had the opportunity to chat and share their feelings.

“I can honestly say not one of us is not bitter about all of this. What I can’t get over, Kevin was killed and all these other guys and girls, too. If they accomplished something you’d say, ‘How wonderful. Oh my God, look what they’ve done.’ But there’s no way (of) making that place any

better, as far as I’m concerned,” she said adamantly.

“They’re at it since time began, and they’re still at it. They’re at it in Iraq. They’re eating one another and there’s no end to it.”

Her son, Pte. Kevin Vincent Kennedy, was killed April 8, 2007 while on patrol.

He was one of six Canadian soldiers killed that Easter Sunday when their armoured vehicle struck a roadside bomb west of Kandahar City.

Military officials at the time said it was the worst single-day loss of life for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

According to media reports that day, Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of Task Force Afghanistan, said an LAV III (armoured vehicle) hit an improvised explosive device around 1:30 p.m., killing six people and injuring four.

The private’s mother said she’ll never forget that day as long as she lives. He had been deployed for only nine weeks and was just 20 years old.

She was living in Wabush at the time.

“I got up early Sunday morning. We had company coming for turkey supper. I was getting everything ready and I had this awful feeling come over me,” Kennedy recalled.

“I don’t know what the feeling was, like a heavy feeling on my chest. I was just out of sorts, to tell the truth. I said, there’s something going on. All I could say is, my God Kevin are you OK? I hope you’re OK.”

Kennedy has another son who is in the Navy.

She said she grabbed a coffee and ran to the computer to Google Afghanistan fighting and saw a headline that said Canadian Forces members had been killed.

Kennedy said she knew in her heart, but wouldn’t say anything because she feared talking about it might make it come true.

She continued cooking Easter dinner.

“I was looking through the window and it was drifting like crazy this day — couldn’t see the house next door. A burgundy car came up the drive. I knew it was the cop car. It was what they called the ghost car,” she said, recalling every detail.

“I said, ‘Oh my Jesus, Reg (her husband), open the door, the cops are here. I knows there’s something after happening to Kevin.

“I just went to the police, I said, ‘You don’t have to tell me.’ The officer just broke down, the tears were just coming out of his eyes, crying. I said, ‘It’s Kevin isn’t it?’ The priest looked at me and he couldn’t get a word out.

“I said, ‘He was killed, wasn’t he? The other police officer said, ‘Yes Kay, he was killed this morning,” Kennedy said softly.

“I’ll never forget it. My life changed forever after that.

“It is sad, my dear,” she said after a long silence, her voice breaking with emotion.

When she went to New Brunswick to see Kevin in January 2007, before his deployment,  she knew it would be the last time she would see her son, Kennedy said.

“We said goodbye to Kevin at the airport. When I hugged him for the last time, I knew I wouldn’t see him again. I felt it,” she said.

Even though seven years have passed since her son was killed, Kennedy said it is as fresh in her heart and mind as if it happened yesterday.

She said it gets easier over time, but she has broken down many times over the years, thinking about her young son being gone.

“You don’t get over it, but you find a way to try to live without them, but it is so hard to do,” she said.

“I’m a strong person. I’m a survivor. I got no other choice.”

One of the ways she copes is by talking about Kevin and sharing her story and his with other people. She said she hasn’t done it often, just a couple of times at Legions around Memorial Day and Remembrance Day, but she intends to do it more.

On Saturday she will be a guest speaker at the Run For Freedom Festival in Riverhead, Saint Mary’s Bay.

Sheila Lee, one of the organizers, said the event is arranged to coincide with Memorial Day.

“We want to remember and give thanks (to) all those who gave their lives for their country, especially those young Newfoundland men who lost their lives in the Battle of Beaumont Hamel and, more recently, Afghanistan,” Lee said.

“We also want to celebrate in a big way the freedom these brave soldiers gave us to enjoy.”

Lee said it was fitting to have Kennedy speak about her experience with war during the first such community event.

“As a mother who lost a child to war, I can understand completely how mothers years ago felt when they lost their sons —  Beaumont Hamel, Korean War, Afghanistan. It’s all the same,” said Kennedy.

“I want to keep his memory alive. I don’t want Kevin to ever be forgotten. I want to talk about the effect of losing a son to war. I’m speaking for all those mothers and the effects war can have on family. War not only affects a country and politicians, it has a major impact on a family, and many have been affected by war,” she said.

“I can’t understand this world. We’re only in it for a short period of time. Why we can’t live in harmony and peace, I don’t know. I mean, what is the God damn problem? It’s all about oil, and religion and greed.”



Festival facts

The Run For Freedom Festival is being held June 27-29 at Riverhead, Saint Mary’s Bay.

Friday, June 27: wiener and marshmallow roast, 8 p.m.

Saturday, June 28: registration at Royal Canadian Legion for 8 km walk.

Walk is to be followed by ceremony and food at Legion Branch 62. Guest speaker: Kay Kennedy.

1 p.m., entertainment on community ball field with bouncy castles, beer tent, music by Brian Finn.

9 p.m., outdoor dance; music By Heartland Band; $10 admission.

Sunday, June 29 at 11:15 a.m.: cemetery mass.

Hot roast beef dinner at the Legion following mass. Please book in advance.

Sunday afternoon: outside activities in the ball field with music, beer tent.