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'I had big shoes to fill and had to carry his legacy forward'
When Leading Seaman Michael Kennedy lost his only brother in the war in Afghanistan in 2007, it changed his views of his own military career.
Pte. Kevin Kennedy was killed in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan on April 8, 2007, a loss that is still heavily felt by Michael Kennedy.
The two brothers were close growing up in St. Lawrence — Michael being just two years older than Kevin — playing soccer together and hanging around with the same group of friends.
“Every day I think about Kevin,” Michael Kennedy said last week during a visit home to Newfoundland.
“Everything I did in my career … I really took my career seriously after he gave his life and what he went through. I wanted to experience what he did, and it’s fortunate that I was able to make it home.
“Just thinking back that he gave his life at such a young age, just 20 years old, gave his life for his country, and it felt like I had big shoes to fill and had to carry his legacy forward.”
Michael Kennedy served as a naval combat information operator in the Canadian Navy at the beginning of his military career.
"...it felt like I had big shoes to fill and had to carry his legacy forward.” — Micheal Kennedy
He was deployed during Operation Enduring Freedom as the Canadian Navy joined an international force in the Arabian Gulf region to keep it safe from piracy on the sea and to counter terrorism.
“Back in 2016 I got out of the Canadian Forces (after 13 years) and actually went to Iraq and Syria and volunteered with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the YPG — People’s Protection Unit,” he said. “These are the Kurdish militias that have been fighting, supported by the Western coalition, so they are the main ground forces involved in the war against ISIS.
“It was a big experience and I ended up in an Iraqi prison. We were heading out of Syria and crossing into Iraqi territory, and there was a rival faction controlling the area we were going through and we ended up being taken to an Iraqi prison for 10 days.
“We were put in a cell with our enemy fighters. About 100 men in one cell. Food was very scarce, no beds and one toilet.”
Michael Kennedy said he was with a multinational team at the time made up of Germans, Americans, British and French. They were all freed after each of their country’s embassies got involved.
Last year, he served with the French Foreign Legion.
Now, he is returning to civilian life.
“It started to set in that I needed a change in life and career, for my own mental health,” he said. “Just to have some stability in life and to give my poor mother a break away from all the stress of having a son deployed in a war zone after what happened to Kevin.”