Interview and photo by Francine Grinnell
Who are you?
I’m John J. McKenna III. I’m a Clifton Park resident, a husband, father and grandfather.
What do you do?
I’m actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the Military Courtesy Room organized at the Albany Airport to honor the memory of my son, Capt. John McKenna IV who served as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. It’s on the third floor observation level of the airport. We provide media entertainment, snacks and support in a comfortable, friendly environment to every member of our military who travel through Albany International Airport. They make great sacrifices serving our country and are often separated from home and family on deployments. We also offer free hotel accommodations to stranded personnel at the Hilton Garden Inn, in Troy.
Would you tell us about your son, John?
In February of 2005, John’s unit was called up for service in Iraq. They were patrolling the streets of Fallujah when his unit came under sniper attack. Lance Cpl. Michael Glover, who was the point man for the patrol, was struck by a sniper’s bullet and lay wounded on the ground. John called for his men to throw smoke grenades around Glover. He ordered his men to cover and went into the cloud of smoke to help Cpl. Glover. As he was dragging him to safety, John was killed by sniper fire.
Why did John become a |New York State Trooper?
John trained as an air-defense controller. Upon graduation, his permanent assignment was to the Second Marine Air Wing at Cherry Point, N.C. But John decided he wanted a change. He missed the regular contact with his family; the phone calls about five times a week were never enough for any of us. He decided to leave the Marine Corps and return to New York. He looked at several government and police agencies and decided the New York State Police had a mindset that closely represented that of his fellow Marines. While waiting for acceptance into the police academy, John joined Fox Company, 2nd Bn, 25th Marines in Albany. John completed the infantry officers course and was assigned as a platoon commander.
Why are you involved with the needs of military service people and their families?
Before they were warriors they were just boys growing up in New York. Before they put on the uniform of a Marine, they had developed a set of values that put the welfare of others above their own. They carried those values as Marines and that’s what inspires us today. It makes simple, common sense that when we send our children off to war, we have a moral and patriotic obligation to help those who return with devastating injuries. When Bette Midler gave us the song “From a Distance” she sang that “God is watching us; God is watching us — from a distance.” I believe the spirits of our fallen are watching us, not from a distance, but up close, side by side, only a breath away, as we decide, as a society, how to help those who have been injured in body and mind by this war. Many of our wounded are still fighting on their own personal battlefields, dealing with what for many will be life-long wounds, and we will not leave them while they still need us. That is why we do what we do.