Tribute to Tpr McKenna

New York State Trooper John J. McKenna, who was killed on Aug. 16, 2006 in Iraq while serving as a Captain with the U.S. Marine Corps, was honored by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. Serving with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Division, Fox Company, McKenna was shot and killed by a sniper just outside the city of Fallujah.

Trooper McKenna had been stationed at Troop F in Kingston and had been a member of the New York State Police since February 2005. McKenna, 30, is survived by his parents and his sister.

The State Troopers PBA is proud of Trooper McKenna’s service as both a New York State Trooper and as a Marine. He dedicated his life to serving and protecting the public, and for that, we are eternally grateful.

Below is an article from the Times Union newspaper of Albany about the tribute from the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors.

By LEIGH HORNBECK, Staff writer

First published: Wednesday, February 28, 2007

BALLSTON SPA — Capt. John McKenna could have stayed home instead of going to war. Before he turned 30, he already was a decorated veteran of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He went back to the Middle East a third time because he believed in his country, but most of all he went back to be with his fellow Marines. He died in their arms Aug. 16, 2006, the victim of a sniper’s bullet

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors honored McKenna at a ceremony Tuesday, where he was posthumously awarded the state Senate Liberty Medal and the state Conspicuous Service Cross. His family was on hand to receive the awards.

"There are a lot of good guys in the Marine Corps," said Maj. Peter Merrill, who trained McKenna when he returned as a reservist. "But John was a great leader and a warrior even when he didn’t have to be."

Briefly a Clifton Park resident before he went to Iraq, McKenna was a state trooper. More than 20 troopers were at the ceremony, along with World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. Young Marines were there too, men who fought alongside McKenna and will likely see more action in Iraq.

McKenna was in Fallujah with his unit, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Division, when a firefight broke out on the street. Another Marine, University at Albany graduate Lance Cpl. Michael Glover, 28, was shot and McKenna took over his position when he too, was shot.

Cpl. Brandon Gibson, 23, a Fox Company Marine from East Greenbush, wears their sacrifice on his skin. When Gibson returned from Iraq in October, he had a tattoo on his left wrist of the twin towers and the dates of his time in Iraq. One tower bears an "M" for McKenna, the other a "G" for Glover. Gibson said the tattoo is on the inside of his wrist so he can see it when he holds his M-16 to his shoulder.

Wayne Bennett, who retired this week as superintendent of the State Police, said he met McKenna through Toys for Tots, a charity supported by both troopers and Marines.

"He was a big, strapping kid with red hair and freckles, someone you notice quickly. Someone you say, ‘We could use this person.’ "

Bennett spoke to McKenna’s parents when he said it is hard for mothers to see their sons go to war or serve as police officers.

"You have to be the person who responds to know why he went," Bennett said. Karen McKenna, crying, nodded.

In the middle of numerous accolades for Capt. McKenna, a veteran of the Vietnam War read a letter he wrote to his parents when he was 22 and serving as a tank platoon leader in October 1966. Lt. Col. Willard Lochridge wrote about the death of his best friend.

"When you lose someone in combat, it strikes hard and deep," Lochridge said. "The realities of the war is that freedom costs — more than anything else on Earth."

And in the end, he said, it’s about the people you fight beside.