St. Paul soldier killed in Afghanistanby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A soldier from St. Paul has been killed while on duty in Afghanistan. Spc. Joseph A. Kennedy died Friday of his injuries after his unit was attacked, according to the Department of Defense.
Kennedy, 25, is being remembered as a good friend and hard worker. Kennedy was originally from Inver Grove Heights, and met Shelly Holzemer's son, Tim, in second grade.
"Their friendship shaped both their lives as they grew into amazing young men," Shelly Holzemer wrote in an email. "They were curious, mischievous and creative. The way boys should be. They never got into any real trouble, just good, mostly clean, fun."
At Simley High School, Kennedy was best friends with Jamie Leigh's older brother, Jon. She remembers him as respectful and funny.
He "always stopped in and said 'hi' to my father and I after Jon left for the Air Force," Leigh wrote in an email. Kennedy was "always there for my brother. He is going to be missed greatly by all."
His family's long-time neighbor, Tammy Ciupik, once saw Kennedy take a Bronco truck apart and then weld it together again to make a four-wheeler.
"He was an awesome welder and always was a hard worker," she said in an email. "He would help out whenever needed."
On his Myspace page, Kennedy had written about his love for Ford trucks and Mustangs.
"For the most part I spend alot of time in my garage building things, learning guitar, pondering what ... I'm gonna do with my life, and how I'll turn out," he wrote.
Kennedy enlisted in the Army in April 2009, and was stationed at Fort Knox in September 2010. He was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, and was on his first combat tour.
Kennedy's cousin, Adam Leichliter, said he was following in the footsteps of two other members of the extended family.
"We are a big family and now there is a hole in it," Leichliter wrote. "He will be loved and missed by our family, his friends and his buds in the military."
Kennedy's family has asked for privacy. In a statement, Kennedy's mother, Valerie Kennedy, said he "was a fine young man."
"He is our hero," she said. "He lived life with the volume turned up full blast. We are extremely proud of him and his service to our country. He will be missed by many that loved him dearly."
Kennedy received several military awards and decorations, including the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon.
Since his death, he has been awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star Medal, and Purple Heart.
Memorial services are planned at Fort Knox and in Afghanistan.