BENTON, KY, USA U.S. Army SPC, COMPANY A, 1ST BATTALION, 17TH INFANTRY, 2ND BCT, FORT LEWIS, WA KANDAHAR AIRFIELD (KAF), AFGHANISTAN 09/26/2009
Specialist Kevin J. Graham of Benton, KY died September 26, 2009 in Kandahar, Afghanistan of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash. Kevin’s unit was serving in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province; his platoon was tasked with firing mortars and illumination rounds to prevent Taliban fighters from occupying terrain from which they could launch attacks. Kevin spent his last hours on a supply mission that included clearing bombs from culverts to make sure roads were safe for other patrols. A bomb exploded near his vehicle on that mission, killing him.
Kevin loved muscle cars. It started when he rebuilt a 1939 with his dad and brother, and culminated in his prized vehicle: A 1965 Pontiac Le Mans. “He loved to drive that thing,” said Kevin’s brother, Sean Graham. “That was his pride and joy. He was always working on that thing, always driving and washing it.”
Sean also said his brother always wanted to be a soldier, dressing up in Army gear, playing Army games and eagerly listening to stories of World War II and Vietnam. He enlisted in 2007.
“He had always been that way, and I fully supported his decision to go into the Army,” Sean Graham said. “It took a while for him to make that decision. When he did, I was so proud of him.”
Tristan Miller was one of Kevin’s best friends. The two grew up together, and remained close.
He said Kevin loved military history, and enjoyed talking with veterans. He and Kevin joined the Army within months of each other, he said, and he said his friend knew what he was doing when he enlisted. “He was enlisting in a time of war and he chose to enlist as an infantryman,” Miller said. “Kevin knew what he was going into. This was something he volunteered to do. Kevin knew something was wrong out there and he was going to take a stand about it.”
Alex Hernandez, another of Kevin’s childhood friends, is grateful for the relationship he had with Graham. “I thank God he brought friends like Kevin, like (Tristan Miller) into my life,” Hernandez said. He also said he does not mourn his friend, because he knows Kevin is with God, where he no longer suffers. “I can’t feel sorrow,” he said. “I can’t feel the pain.”
In one of the last letters he wrote home, Kevin told his wife, Krystal, the distance from his family had been so tough on him that he covered his face and cried himself to sleep the night before. Krystal and Kevin’s 7-year-old stepson, Brian, remained in Washington. Phone calls and letters helped ease the burden of a deployment. They talked of buying a house when he returned.
“We were going to have our own porch swing,” she wrote, “so that we could just sit and swing and enjoy life together.” Kevin embraced Krystal’s son as his own and was especially proud that Brian called him Dad.
In addition to Krystal and Brian, Kevin is survived by his parents, Sandra and Daniel Graham, and three older brothers, including Sean.