The parents of New York State Trooper and Marine Capt. John J. McKenna IV continue to keep his memory alive through a foundation they have established in John’s name, as well as continuing John’s tradition of helping to collect donations for the Toys for Tots program. Trooper McKenna was killed while serving with the Marines in Iraq in August 2006 while rushing to the aid of a fellow Marine who was shot.
Below is an article that appeared in The Saratogian newspaper about the efforts of John J. McKenna III and Karen McKenna in their son’s memory.
Family of slain Marine keeps his efforts alive
By JIM KINNEY , The Saratogian
CLIFTON PARK – It’s an iconic image of the Christmas season, Marine reservists in their dress blues at community events collecting donations for Toys for Tots, an organization founded by Reserve members in Los Angeles in 1947.
It’s a role Marine Capt. John J. McKenna IV filled many times, either as a Marine or as a member of the New York State Police, who also support the charity.
McKenna was killed in action Aug. 16, 2006 while serving with his Albany-based Marine unit as a platoon commander near Fallujah, Iraq. He had come to the aid of a fellow Marine who was pinned down and was fatally wounded. McKenna was 30 years old.
So last December, it was McKenna’s mother and father, John J McKenna III and Karen McKenna of Clifton Park, who had a garage full of toys they had collected at various drop-off locations around southern Saratoga County. That’s the goal this year as well.
"At least we can make the loss less for other people. We can fill some of the roll he would have filled," John McKenna said. "Of course, we still battle our own grief."
They’ve established a foundation in their son’s name having raised $50,000 through a testimonial dinner and golf outing in Brooklyn, where the family was from before moving to this area. The money goes to the Semper Fi Injured Marine Fund, the New York State Trooper Foundation and the NYPD/FDNY Widows and Orphans fund.
John McKenna III told of meeting an injured Marine sergeant who lives in the Catskills.
"He had his brain scrambled by an IED," McKenna said. "One minute this kid can recite the Marine Hymn from memory. Two minutes later, he doesn’t know his own name. That’s a case we want to get more involved with directly."
As a Marine, Capt. McKenna visited the State Police Academy in 2004 to pick up toys collected by troopers. Wayne Bennett, then the superintendent of the state police, was there too.
McKenna’s father said he had already been accepted to the Academy to become a trooper. But he didn’t say anything.
Bennett told the story of that day at McKenna’s funeral. Now Schenectady’s Commissioner of Public Safety, he recalled it again this week.
He said he noticed McKenna, a big, imposing man with red hair.
"He looked immaculate in his uniform," Bennett said. "I said to myself ‘Boy, we could use a man like that.’ He was a poster boy for the Marines and he was a poster boy for the Troopers. He was just an exemplary individual."
McKenna’s father is fond of telling that story as well. Bennett took a deep breath when told what the McKenna’s are doing now. "What wonderful parents," Bennett said in a recent interview. "They know they can’t bring their son back. But they can sure as hell make sure no one forgets that he was on this earth."