BU Crew team holds seventh annual John McKenna 5K
A Southern Tier race honored a fallen hero Saturday. Former Binghamton University Rower John McKenna died serving in Iraq six years ago. Since then, the annual 5K event in his name has grown; and as our Elyse Mickalonis explains, his memory still teaches important life lessons.
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BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- "This is a wonderful race here. Not only does it raise funds for the crew team, but it also helps support the courtesy room at Albany airport that was developed in John’s name to take care of the troops, which is what he wanted to do; it’s one of the last things we talked about before lost him,” said John McKenna III, John's Father.
Around 600 people hit the pavement to run in memory of the fallen marine. This year marks the seventh time the John McKenna 5K was held in Binghamton, an event organized by BU's Crew team, the same team McKenna rowed for from 1994 to 1998.
"We’ve never known him, but every time we hear the McKenna’s talk it brings us to tears,” said Kelsey Wasilewski, John McKenna 5K Committee Public Relations. “It cuts into us that this was someone’s brother, someone’s friend. It could have been anyone."
A State Trooper and a United States Marine, McKenna was killed in action on August 16th, 2006 during his third tour of duty in Iraq. McKenna’s father said he was the perfect Irish baby born with day-glow orange hair on St. Patrick’s Day. Sunday would have been his 37th birthday.
"We don’t look at John as lost; we look at him as being with us. We celebrate his life, we party. We have a family rule: no sad stories, just the fun anecdotes we exchanged and the great times we had together,” said McKenna.
Family members said he was someone who always tried to help others and look on the bright side of things, lessons they said will stay with those who knew him.
"I think John is someone we can all learn from. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us and our country. I think it’s made me a better person celebrating John and his memory,” said Wasilewski.
McKenna added, "He was always the one in the party to get people to laugh. He was everyone's best friend. If you needed someone to talk to, John was the guy to talk to. It's amazing how not only did that show up in Binghamton with his friends here, many of whom became lifelong, but it also showed up in the Marine Corps. Everyone talks about his sense of humor and no matter how bad things got, if you could laugh you could get through it."
Those are just a few lessons left by someone who dedicated their life to bettering the lives of those around him.