Brother Rice community, family, friends mourn soldier
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org August 10, 2012 11:02PM
Peggy Cavanaugh, of Tinley Park, stands with others to pay respects to the Kennedy family as the hearse carrying the coffin of Army PFC Ryan Kennedy passes his former school Brother Rice High School in Chicago, Illinois, Friday, August 10, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Ryan Kennedy’s wake will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Blake and Lamb Funeral Home, 4727 W. 103rd St., Oak Lawn. His funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the St. Rita chapel at 77th Street and Western Avenue in Chicago.
Updated: September 13, 2012 6:22AM
It was a heartbreaking scene.
As the body of her youngest son, Army Pfc. Ryan Kennedy rested in a nearby hearse, Linda Kennedy stood in the sun sobbing and shaking. A Brother Rice High School trumpeter was playing taps in his memory.
When it was finished, longtime friend Debbie Kinsella threw her arms around Linda’s neck and handed her a photo of their two smiling sons. Ryan and Ryne. Just a year ago, the two friends, who as teenagers had enlisted together, were smiling and laughing in their military dress uniforms on the Fourth of July.
“My heart is breaking terribly for his mother,” said Kinsella, who was among hundreds of family, friends, alumni and supporters who came out Friday to Brother Rice to honor Kennedy.
The 22-year-old shot himself Aug. 2 in an apartment just outside Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo., after battling post-traumatic stress disorder, his family said. He served in Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division from May 26, 2009, to May 29, 2010.
Kennedy’s unit was redeployed to Afghanistan earlier this year, a mission he was forced to miss because of his mental illness, according to family. Fort Carson officials, where he was stationed, said Ryan’s death is under investigation.
His body was flown into Midway Airport on Friday, and the procession carrying his casket stopped by Brother Rice, where Ryan graduated in 2008. Members of the school’s football and soccer teams lined the street, wearing their school jerseys and holding American flags.
“He’s representing us, all of us in service to our country,” Kinsella said before the ceremony. “He’s a local boy, and we are here to show him our love and thanks.”
Among the crowd that turned out stood senior Brendan Hogan. Like many who showed up to watch the procession carrying Kennedy’s body, Hogan did not know the Afghanistan veteran — the second Brother Rice alumni and veteran honored in such a way this year.
“When someone from our school suffers, we all suffer,” Hogan said. “We’re brothers in the four years we’re here, and it keeps on going.”
Police cars from Chicago, Crestwood, Burbank and other departments led the procession, followed by the hearse and a limousine carrying Ryan’s mother, father Thomas Sheehan and brother Paul Kennedy.
They stepped out of the vehicle, and the Brother Rice band played “The Star-Spangled Banner” in memorial.
When the band finished, a student at the school played taps.
Linda, a retired Chicago police officer, choked away tears while thanking everyone for coming out. Her longtime friend and Tinley Park resident Peggy Cavanaugh also hugged her.
“It’s devastating especially for anyone that knows their family,” said Cavanaugh, a Cook County sheriff’s officer. “This should not be happening to our boys.”
When the ceremony ended, the procession drove north and underneath an American flag perched atop a Chicago fire truck’s raised ladder.
Jack Carlson, a counselor at Brother Rice, said he knew Ryan from the school’s Kairos retreat in 2008.
“He was a good kid with some depth and faith,” Carlson said. “I thought it’d be good to honor him. The problem is, we’ve been doing this too often.”