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Next to a beautiful coast where the whales are known to come and play, a special ceremony was held on July 27 to officially open the Pte. Kevin Kennedy Memorial Garden in the small Irish Loop town of St. Vincent’s.
At 20 years of age, Kevin Kennedy died in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan on April 8, 2007. He was one of six soldiers who died in that incident — including another Newfoundland and Labrador soldier, Sgt. Donald Lucas.
Kennedy is buried in St. Vincent’s, next to his grandparents. It’s what he had requested should he not return from Afghanistan alive.
The town’s Fisherman’s Museum Committee has been looking after a small memorial garden named after the young private.
Lacking funds to update the garden on its own, the committee earlier this year sought help. Immediately, teachers and students of Beaconsfield Junior High School in St. John's, after reading a story in The Telegram, stepped forward and raised money, and arranged for a new sign to be donated to the garden.
Funds were also raised and donated by the province's uniformed services — members include military, RCMP, RNC, fire departments, Canadian Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement, and other first responders.
A number of other individuals and groups also offered support.
The result is a beautiful newly updated garden that honours not just Kennedy, but all others from the town and area who had served or who are serving in the military.
On July 27, St. Vincent’s native and retired military nurse Rose St. Croix, summed up the occasion in a moving tribute.
St. Croix had also served in Afghanistan.
“Whoever thought that when we were watching 9-11 on the news here in Newfoundland in 2001 that our province would have so many of our sons and daughters serving in the resulting war — and that 13 of its sons would make the ultimate sacrifice to the war in Afghanistan,” St. Croix said. “It all seemed far removed from us at that time.
“Kevin’s mom (Kay Kennedy) and I grew up and went to school together here in St. Vincent’s. In 2006-07 when I was in Afghanistan, Kay sent me an email to tell me that her son was arriving in Afghanistan within the next few days.”
St. Croix said she sought Kevin Kennedy out and asked him to meet her at Canada House.
“We had a few laughs about St. Vincent’s and I gave him all my Newfie goodies that had been sent to me from home,” she said. “I soon realized he was a prankster because he had told his bosses that his aunt was leaving Afghanistan in a few days and he had to go meet with her. We laughed about that. It got him off the ranges in plus-50 degree weather. We got someone to take our picture and I sent it to his mother that night. I left Afghanistan a few days later not knowing what was to happen within the month.”
St. Croix said the memorial garden in St. Vincent’s is dedicated to the memory of Kennedy and to all other veterans who have gone before him, and those to come.
Kay Kennedy has said her son gave his life in Afghanistan fighting to stop atrocities from occurring in that part of the world, to end terror and to maintain the freedom that countries like Canada enjoy.
Before he was deployed to Afghanistan, he told his mother, “Mom, we need to go over to stop evil there before it comes to our own land.”
"That's his words," Kay Kennedy said. "He was a wonderful young man, very patriotic, loved his country. He was very kind, very giving, and always thought about the underdog. He always wanted to be there to help people, and especially those people in Afghanistan."