Master Sergeant P. Andrew McKenna Jr. ’15
CLASS OF 2015
April 4, 1980 – August 7, 2015.
“The true heroes are the ones that don’t come home.”
– RCT Chase Hammer ’19
THIS YEAR, Master Sergeant P. Andrew McKenna Jr. ’15 attended the Fourth of July celebration in his hometown of Bristol, R.I., and received the award for traveling the farthest for the festivities. The 35-year-old Army Green Beret had flown home from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Just a month and a half later, Drew McKenna’s hometown gathered together again, this time in his memory.
On August 7, Taliban attackers breached the fence of Camp Integrity, McKenna’s base. A firefight erupted, and McKenna ran into the line of attack to defend the camp. As he and his fellow U.S. forces successfully fended off the Taliban, McKenna was cut down. Naval physical therapist Samantha Letizio, who began a relationship with McKenna while stationed at Camp Integrity, said, “I have no doubt in my mind, he saved 300 lives that night.”
This past spring, McKenna completed a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis through Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS). At the time he was killed, he had set his sights on the next phase of his life;
October 1 was to be the end of his sixth deployment, his last overseas tour, and he’d planned to return to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Forgoing college after his 1998 high school graduation, McKenna entered the Army as an infantryman, qualifying for the Special Forces in 2002. In his thirties, he enrolled in the Norwich online program, devouring his studies. “Drew’s purpose for enrolling at Norwich was more about a quest for knowledge than it was about getting a diploma,” says James Dalton, director of the CGCS Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis program. “He applied the knowledge he gained during the SSDA program daily, and chose research projects that would benefit him and his teammates in the execution of their missions.”
McKenna graduated from Norwich magna cum laude, and planned to pursue a master’s upon returning home.
On August 16, hundreds lined the route during his memorial procession. Among them was Clare Chisholm ’80, a Bristol resident. “Thank you for your service,” Chisholm had written on NU’s Facebook page in response to the news of McKenna’s death. “I will be waving a flag when you come home to Bristol.” McKenna was laid to rest next to his brother Patrick, who died in a motorcycle accident 10 years earlier. – J.E.D.
AWARDS and COMMENDATIONS
On August 13, 2015, Camp Integrity in Kabul, Afghanistan, held a memorial for McKenna, and on the same day, the Army Times announced his recommendation for the Silver Star for his actions of the previous week. The highly decorated Green Beret will also receive a posthumous Purple Heart. See below for a complete list of his military awards and commendations:
The Bronze Star
The Meritorious Service Medal
The Army Commendation Medal
The Army Achievement Medal
The Army Good Conduct Medal
The National Defense Service Medal
The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
The Afghanistan Campaign Medal
The War on Terrorism Service Medal
The Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon
The Army Service Ribbon
The Overseas Service Ribbon
The NATO Medal
The Combat Infantryman Badge
The Master Free Fall Parachutist Badge
The Master Parachutist Badge
The Air Assault Badge
The Special Forces Tab