By Paul Wood
CHAMPAIGN — It’s a soldier’s time to get to know his son.
Kraig Kennedy just returned from Kuwait. He was deployed 10 months ago with the National Guard’s Springfield-based 3637th Support Maintenance Company.
After the stint in Kuwait most recently, and earlier Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, Kennedy is getting a chance to get to hang with his 7-month-old son, Declan.
Declan is a common name in Ireland. “The family has a strong Irish tradition,” said Kraig’s wife, Ashley.
She is a third-year law student and the reason the Kennedys are in Champaign. He proposed to her when both were in the service, Ashley in the Navy.
The sergeant, 33, was given leave for Declan’s birth, but he missed the delivery by 18 hours.
Kennedy has built flight simulators at Frasca International. He intends to use his military scholarship to further his education in technology.
Kraig Kennedy has an associate degree in automotive technology.
Kennedy is only four years away from the standard retirement age.
“I’m still trying to find out what to do when I grow up,” he said.
In his 16 years, he’s seen a lot of action, sometimes setting up or repairing generators in dangerous areas.
Most recently, he was part of the largest single unit deployment of Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers in three years.
The 3637th company was responsible for maintenance and support for nearly 90 units deployed in support of operations Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve.
The main body was stationed at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Other support teams conducted operations in six locations in Jordan, Syria and Egypt. The unit logged more than 165,000 miles, transporting cargo on more than 90 missions.
They returned to Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport on July 18.
Kennedy recalls Kuwait as “very hot with a lot of dust storms.”
But there was new technology on the base that allowed Kennedy to keep in touch with Declan by reading a book to him almost every day. The books were also mailed to the infant.
Due to the experience, Kennedy has no love for Dr. Seuss and his book’s “Butter Battle” over toast.
Earlier deployments didn’t have the luxury features.
He was in Iraq in 2007 at Base Hit with one satellite phone for 300 people
He said Iraq was his most dangerous assignment, with IEDS, mortars and small arms fire. But it’s not something he wants to talk about much. “I was in convoys but mostly repairing generators at the base or nearby,” he said.
Kennedy was part of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort for 33 days in 2005. He said the work was intense as he tried to restore power on the Gulf Coast; the unit had to deal with massive damage and some body recovery.
But it’s been a good 16 years for Kennedy.
Military service “is a Kennedy tradition.”
“Every male has been in the service since my great-grandfather,” he said.
Do you know a veteran who could share a story about military service? Contact Paul Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org.