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The United States military involvement in Afghanistan is in its 11th year; the Iraq war has spanned eight. In that time, more than 6,400 U.S. soldiers have died in the field. More than 160 of them were from Massachusetts.
Their names were read at a ceremony on Boston Common last week. At the ceremony, Gov. Deval Patrick reflected on the field of American flags that volunteers had planted on the Common.
"I am struck by how, behind every single one of these flags, is a family — a mother and a father, a child, relatives, friends and neighbors -- who knew them in ways we never will," Gov. Patrick said. "Who still experience the full measure of the sacrifice offered by these heroes and who understand, in ways many of us can't, the profound sacrifice that we ask of our citizens for our freedoms."
Almost a decade later, how are the families of those soldiers killed in the earliest years of the war managing? Has time changed their feelings about war?
Army Chief Warrant Officer Kyran Kennedy grew up in West Roxbury and was killed when his Black Hawk helicopter was shot down near Tikrit, Iraq on November 7, 2003. He was 43 and is survived by his wife, three children, his parents and his nine brothers and sisters.
Radio Boston's Meghna Chakrabarti met with Kennedy's mother, father and one of his sisters at their home in Canton, Mass.
Kyran Kennedy's wife, Kathy, who lives in Virginia, says her youngest son Kevin, who was just 3 years old when his father died and is now 11, wishes he could remember his father.
"He's been having some difficulties I think, with the whole idea that his older siblings knew dad, and he did not," Kathy said.
Kathy and Kyran have two other children, Katie who is almost 18 and Chris who is 20.
Back in Canton, Kennedy’s sister Maura, father Kevin and mother Gerry talk about how they remember Kyran today.
On April 4, 2003, Marine Capt. Benjamin Sammis was killed in combat in Iraq. He was 29. Sammis left behind his wife Stacy, two brothers, and his mother and father, Steve and Beth Sammis, who live in Rehoboth, Mass.
Steve Sammis spoke to Radio Boston about his son Benjamin, who was the pilot of a Cobra attack helicopter. Ben graduated number one in his flight class and in the top 3 percent of all naval aviators to go through Pensacola flight training.
Nancy Pirelli from Franklin, Mass. also lost her son in the Iraq war, and said it wasn't until he died that she truly realized the meaning of Memorial Day.
At Thursday's ceremony on the Boston Common, she reminded us to remember the fallen soldiers, like her son Army Staff Sgt. Robert Ryan Pirelli.
"And I will be the first to say that I was one of them that didn't honor Memorial Day, didn't understand what it was all about, until I lost my son," Pirelli said. "So I understand those people out there that do not honor them. But they need to be honored. They have fought, for this country, to give you the freedom you deserve and you have."
This segment aired on May 28, 2012. The audio for this segment is not available.
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