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A military mom finds that helping others also helps her heal

BRANDON

A mother's intuition is rarely wrong.

That evening, Susan Price had arrived at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce event early. Price, a marketing director, decided to make a few phone calls from her car before going inside the Southern Funeral Care home, where a networking mixer was being held.

As she pulled out her cell phone, she noticed two Marines standing outside. She felt her stomach twist into knots.

On Sept. 8, her oldest child, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Michael Kenefick, died in an ambush in Afghanistan. He was 30.

"It was just so unbelievable," Price said in a recent interview. "Here I was at a funeral home, and I kept asking them over and over what happened. It was like I couldn't comprehend it."

A week later, the family buried Kenefick in Amherst, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo where he grew up.

Price felt numb when a Marine handed her the flag draped over her son's coffin. She couldn't believe her baby, the tall, handsome man with beautiful blue eyes, was inside.

"He was a Marine's Marine," Price said. "He died the way he wanted to."

Kenefick always wanted to be one of the few and proud. The family had a rich military history, with someone serving in every war. The old war stories Price's father, also a Marine, told Kenefick over and over spurred his interest.

It was no surprise when he enlisted right after high school, embarking on a 12-year career that would take him to more than 50 countries around the world.

His last mission brought him to Kunar Province in Afghanistan. Kenefick was one of few soldiers chosen to train the Afghan National Army as part of the Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa.

Kenefick had recently moved to Japan from Tampa, where he had been stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.

Among countless honors, twice he was named Marine of the Year. He was a Distinguished Honor Graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning and was assigned to Central Command.

Two days before he died, he had been presented with a Purple Heart for shrapnel he took during a fire-fight.

It was the first time in 12 years that he had been injured.

Price loves talking about her son. But her pride does little to mask her pain. She says she gets by day to day.

But helping others has been the most healing.

She joined the Military Affairs Council, a group affiliated with the Brandon chamber. She helped one local restaurant, Tres Amigos Cantina, to give discounts for active duty military and veterans. A photo of Aaron hangs inside the business.

And on Veterans Day, she presented a $1,000 check in her son's honor to a local nonprofit that helps wounded veterans.

Honoring veterans was something her son always made sure to do, no matter where he was, Price said.

"He would always find veterans to visit, bring them magazines or just sit down to listen," she said. "He made sure to cheer them on and let them know they were not forgotten."

That's what she plans to do for her son — make sure the world remembers.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com, or 661-2454.

A military mom finds that helping others also helps her heal 11/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2009 3:31am]
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