Personal Narrative: an old friend gets honored

Mayfair resident Kevin McCloskey was honored Wednesday at an annual luncheon hosted by the V.F.W. and held at Rosewood Caterers, where he received the Distinguished Military Service Award. I was invited to the event following an announcement from Commander Clifford A Jeffries at Lawncrest’s Veterans Day Service earlier that morning.

Kevin and I are both 2001 graduates of St. Bernard School. I had not seen him in six years, but heard about his injuries in Afghanistan, so I went with the sole intention of seeing him. On the way, I got the inspiration to write a story about it.

Jeffries’ V.F.W. Post “Was formed in 1949, and it is an umbrella group of veteran organizations in the city,” he said. “The Vietnam Vets, the American Legion, the V.F.W, The [Disabled American Veterans] and more — they all belong to the council, and today is our big day, our Veterans Day luncheon when we honor various people who have done things for the Veterans Community,” the commander said.

The moment Kevin walked in, I said hello. He did not recognize me, but when I said my name, a smile came to his face. We talked about what he has been up to since returning home. “I’ve just been hanging out and having fun, man,” he said. We then and caught up with what I’m doing these days. I quickly let him go mingle with his fellow veterans and stood my ground, waiting for the proceedings to begin.

The main guest of honor was Judge Patrick F. Dugan, who received the Man of the Year Award. Dugan is a native Philadelphian and is currently serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves.  He began his acceptance speech by asking every veteran in the room to stand, and thanking them. Turning to Kevin, Dugan stated, “It is an honor standing up here with you today.”

It was Kevin who received most of the day’s attention, namely from ABC News. “It is an honor to be here with everyone. I was never a part of a military family,” he told the guests. “I guess I did it to get out of the neighborhood, learn responsibility and get a little bit of discipline.”

Kevin then told the story of the roadside bomb that took his legs on June 8, 2008 before giving thanks to his mom. “I could never do anything without my mom and my family. She lived with me while I was in Texas [recuperating], but I let her go home after five months.”

“I had to learn to do everything myself. It was hard for a little bit, but it definitely became easy after time; it is who I am, and I had to be a man and grow up and live my life,” Kevin continued.

He then thanked everyone in the room, “especially those who have served.”

Kevin made it a point to say that little things help soldiers while they are in war, like letters or food. These things show support.

To show her support, his sister Michelle has recently published a book of poems titled  Uprooted: Searching for Serenity, in which describes her feelings on what happened to her brother.

“I got to the third page and I was in tears,” Kevin said. “It doesn’t have much regarding my name, so any family can relate to it,” he said.

As to how he is holding up, Kevin was upbeat, telling me, “I’m doing alright. I just got home six weeks ago.”

Kevin plans to go back to school with the intention of studying massage therapy.

On my way out, Kevin suggested we meet up sometime to catch up even more when he is not being hounded by multiple interviews (myself included there). I think I will take him up on the offer sometime.

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