“Michael was a hero…long before his death.”
Michael was born and raised in Boston and the neighboring suburb of Milton. Outgoing, friendly, charismatic and handsome, Michael was almost always engaged in support of one cause or another. Growing up, he certainly engaged in his share of mischief, scrapes and trouble. I was known to say, Michael would either land in prison or the White House, and it was a matter of his choice. As he matured it was clear that Michael wanted to take pride in his actions.
In the summer of 2001, Michael left Johnson and Wales where he was studying to be a chef with a 4.0 grade average – to join the Marines. He went to Parris Island for training just one month before 9/11/2001. Michael served honorably for 6 ½ years earning the rank of Sgt., Combat Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I recall a letter from a superior officer, which I believe says it all – “Lance Corporal Kennedy was not just a Marine under my command, Kennedy was THE MARINE.”
When Michael returned home in 2007 he immediately took the exam for the Boston Fire Department. It was a good career choice for Michael. Though we were always concerned for his safety, we knew he needed the discipline, camaraderie, action and physical challenge, as well as the personal satisfaction of making a difference to people – up close and personal. Soon after, Michael volunteered for the Big Brother Organization and began a friendship with his Little Brother, Alex that would last seven years, until Michael’s death. Realizing a wider family need, he responded by befriending and supporting Alex’s entire family. Alex’s mom described Michael’s arrival as “feeling as if we had all just arrived in Disney Land.” In May 2014, Big Brother Big Sister of Mass Bay named Michael “Big of the Year.”
Since his death, I have heard so many stories about my son, some outrageous – most endearing, many funny or touching. This one is classic. Michael had been invited to attend his first event being hosted by the Boston Burn Foundation – where he later volunteered and joined the board. It was an outing for young burn victims. BBF members were setting up early when Michael arrived. At about the same time the young burn patients began to arrive, earlier than expected. BBF members were concerned Michael might leave when the others expected to help and offer training to Michael didn’t arrive. Instead Michael noted that as the BBF members were setting up, the children were at loose ends – so in typical Michael fashion he got them up and moving. As the setting up finished and it was time to begin the planned games, BBF members found the children already out on the ball field, engaged in what was for many, their first ball game. One child in particular was so excited and eager to learn – his dream was to play little league baseball with his peers – that he kept Michael on the pitcher’s mound for hours as Michael taught him to hit. When he was asked if he was able to keep pitching, Michael responded “If he can keep swinging that bat in his condition, I can’t complain about pitching.”