U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Natick, MA 01760-5012
Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
Date: March 7, 2002
Family shares airborne tradition
Fort Bragg, N.C. -- It isn't unusual for fathers and sons to go to baseball games, or even go fishing together. However, it isn't every day that a father and son get to jump out of a Vietnam-era helicopter together.
For paratroopers Col. (P) James L. Kennon and his son, Sgt. Richard Kennon, the event was made all the more significant by the presence of James's father, former Cpl. John C. Kennon, at Sicily Drop Zone for their jump.
This is the first time that James, deputy for acquisition and readiness, U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command and commander of the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, also known as Natick Labs in Massachusetts, and Richard, a Headquarters and Headquarters Company light wheeled-vehicle mechanic, have ever jumped together.
"When I was a battalion commander here in the mid-90s, my son was in the 82nd Airborne Division. Due to different circumstances, we never could get a chance to jump together," said James. "We wanted to jump with each other at least once, since he took it upon himself to follow his grandfather and I into the airborne tradition."
The legacy that the elder Kennon has built for his family is an uplifting one, said James.
"My father was drafted and became a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in the 1950s," said James. "When the Army became integrated back in the early 50s, and my father was assigned to the 11th, he became the first black soldier in his company and battalion."
"He's also told me stories about flying to Alaska, and jumping in to defend against Soviet soldiers in the Korean War," James said. "He has had a great number of experiences, and I am extremely proud of him."
"Most people might pick some sort of sports figure as their hero, but I have my grandfather and father as my heroes," said Richard. "I always wanted to continue the airborne tradition in my family."
For John, his days of service are memories that he said he cherishes. John also said that he is glad his son and grandson are proud of what he accomplished as a paratrooper.
"I've always made friends easily, and I am a fairly decent speaker, so I always got along with everyone and had fun in those days," said John. "It's great knowing that my son and grandson are jumping together, and that they're enjoying it as much as I did."
After James and Richard jumped from the helicopter, they spent time with John and other members of the Kennon family. James said that it is times such as this spent with his father and son that he enjoys the most.
"We all really enjoy a camaraderie centered around parachuting," said James.
"If you could see my house, you would see all of the pictures of my boys everywhere. There's also a lot of airborne stuff around the house, too," said John. "It's great to have three of the best things in my life so intertwined."
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