‘We must not forget the goodness of Ryan Kennedy’
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com August 13, 2012 1:56PM
Linda Kennedy follows the coffin carrying her son Army Pfc. Ryan Kennedy out of St. Rita chapel in Chicago, Illinois, Monday, August 13, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 15, 2012 6:11AM
At the funeral of her youngest son on Monday, Linda Kennedy wore his gym shoes as a tribute.
Among the hundreds of other family members, friends and mourners who filled the St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel to honor the life of Army Pfc. Ryan Kennedy, many wore customized buttons bearing shamrocks with Ryan’s name — a nod to his Irish heritage — or with tiny yellow ribbons, in support of his service with U.S. troops.
The collection of tributes said the attendees at the South Side church were doing as the Rev. Tom McCarthy urged during the service: remembering the “goodness of Ryan Kennedy” instead of the way his life ended.
Kennedy, 22, shot himself Aug. 2 in an apartment just outside Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo. His family said the Brother Rice High School graduate had battled post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, from May 2009 to May 2010.
“Ryan had some demons (that) war produces,” McCarthy said during his sermon. “Ryan did nothing wrong, but Ryan was in pain.”
McCarthy quoted Iris Bolton, a mother who in 1983 wrote a book, “My Son ... My Son: A Guide to Healing After Death, Loss, or Suicide” after her 20-year-old son, Curtis Mitchell Bolton, committed suicide.
“I don’t know why, I’ll never know why,” McCarthy said. “What I do want to do is to accept it and go on living.”
McCarthy remembered Kennedy as a “little peanut” of a child, goofing around during visits to the St. Rita campus while his brother Paul played in the school’s band.
He also touched upon Kennedy’s military experience, saying that Ryan “had to endure things most of us would not dream of doing” but nevertheless did them with class, honor, dignity and pride.
He urged Kennedy’s family and friends to shoulder the pain of his death together.
“I’m not going to think of that last moment,” McCarthy said. “I’m going to think of the beautiful smile. That’s what I’m going to remember.”
Joe Guarascio, a friend of Kennedy’s and an engineer with the Merrionette Park Fire Department, said he bonded with Kennedy while they were freshmen at Brother Rice.
Guarascio recalled getting into a dance contest with Kennedy at a bar and quipped that Kennedy was the only Irishman he knew who could stand in the sun for hours without getting sunburned.
He mentioned that Kennedy had taken an EMT course while in the military and planned to be a firefighter when he got out. Kennedy’s connections with the Merrionette Park Department were such that on a holiday he brought over plates of food for the firefighters and would call the firehouse occasionally to see if everyone was OK.
“Someone who takes a few seconds to call and check on you is always a friend to me,” Guarascio said.
Addressing Linda Kennedy, Guarascio said she should be proud to have “two amazing sons,” and he asked the audience to give Ryan and his life a round of applause.
Earlier, musicians with the Bagpipes and Drums of the Emerald Society, Chicago Police Department, had played “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” as pallbearers and Kennedy’s family led his coffin into the church.
Kennedy’s death is under investigation, according to officials at Fort Carson, where he was stationed. His unit was redeployed to Afghanistan earlier this year, a mission he was forced to miss because of his mental illness, according to family.