Body of RI soldier killed in Afghanistan returns to US


    A U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of 1st Sgt. Peter A. McKenna Jr., of Bristol, R.I., during a dignified transfer Aug. 10, 2015, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

    The flag at VFW Post 237 in Bristol flew at half-staff Monday in honor of a native son.

    U.S. Army Special Forces 1st Sgt. P. Andrew McKenna Jr. was killed in an enemy attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday.

    "Like every veteran, every generation hopes that theirs is the last one to have this happen. Unfortunately, it keeps going on," said Louis Francis Jr., adjutant of Post 237.

    McKenna's body was returned to U.S. soil Monday, as a U.S. Army carry team transferred his remains at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

    The Rhode Island National Guard said McKenna's dignified transfer to Rhode Island will take place later in the week.

    Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered all U.S. and state flags in Rhode Island to fly at half-staff in his honor beginning Tuesday, though some flags in McKenna's home town of Bristol were already lowered on Monday, including those at the town's Honor Roll Garden near Town Hall.

    "I'd have to say the town of Bristol did it ahead of time in complete respect for the gentleman, the soldier," said Richard Enos, president of the Bristol Veterans Council.

    The Honor Roll Garden is a tribute to those in the military who are from Bristol. McKenna's name is etched on a wall along with other service members from all conflicts and all branches of service.

    Now that he has died, a star will be added to McKenna's name.

    McKenna had just returned home to Rhode Island last month, when he was recognized in a ceremony before the famous Bristol Fourth of July parade for traveling the farthest to attend.

    In a town where many homes are draped in red, white and blue, and where many pride themselves on patriotism, that pride is now coupled with a tremendous sense of loss that is evident by the flags that have been lowered.

    "If they're ours, we let people know. This is Bristol, it's what we do," one resident said.

    McKenna joined the Army in 1998, the year he graduated from Mount Hope High School. He earned a long list of military awards and decorations during his service, including Bronze Star Medal with V device, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Master Free Fall Parachutist Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Air Assault Badge and the Special Forces Tab.

    McKenna earned a bachelor's degree in strategic studies from Norwich University in 2015.

    McKenna was the son of Peter and Carol McKenna of Bristol. The McKennas lost their other son, Patrick, 10 years ago this month in a fatal motorcycle accident.

    As of Monday, funeral arrangements were incomplete.

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