STAFFORD, VA, U.S.A. U.S. ARMY COL, JOINT FORCES HEADQUARTERS, BLACKSTONE, VA 01/20/2007, BAGHDAD, IRAQ
COL Paul Kelly with 11 other U.S. troops were killed in Baghdad in a Black Hawk helicopter crash.
SFC Arturo Robinson recalled a time he was getting into disciplinary trouble and Paul Kelly told him to take a hard look at his behavior. Something about the way Kelly communicated — firmly but with respect — got through to Robinson. “He saved my career,” SFC Robinson said.
John Kelly, COL Kelly’s brother, recalled a man who cherished the soldiers he worked with. “Every time we communicated with him, he’d ask us to pray for all the soldiers doing a great job out there,” he added.
“He was extremely caring and dedicated both to the profession, his family and friends. He loved what he did, and he loved his country.”
COL Kelly was remembered as a devoted family man and soldier yesterday. Hundreds mourned the highest-ranking National Guard member to die in a combat theater in the Iraq war.
“Paul loved his family, his God, his soldiers, his country,” The Reverend David P. Meng spoke to the mourners gathered at St. William of York Catholic Church. He added that although they feel sadness and even anger, heaven welcomes Paul Kelly. “A brother has come home.”
COL Kelly’s young sons wrote messages to their father in the program along with a drawing of a man in a helicopter with “Go Dad!” written beside it.
“Dear Dad,” one son wrote. “I just wanted to tell you I miss you a lot. I was looking forward to Play foot Ball with you. You’re my Best friend and the Best Dad ever. We miss you. Love, your son Paul.”
And John, known as J.J., wrote, “Dear Dad, I love you. I want to wrestle with you when its night time. I want to go food shopping with you and buy lunchables. I want to go to Batman begins Movie with you. Love, J.J.”
COL Kelly, a graduate of Carroll High School and University of Dayton, chose the military just as his father had who was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. COL Kelly spent his career in staff and leadership positions with the National Guard, serving in Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia.
Another service took place in Al Asad, Iraq, where members of the Virginia National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, gathered in a chapel at their base west of Baghdad to eulogize COL Kelly and the others who died. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2Timothy 4:7