U.S. House Passes Bill to Honor Sergeant P. Andrew McKenna Jr.

Monday, March 5, 2018

WASHINGTON – Tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.4685 to rename the United States Post Office at 515 Hope Street in Bristol, as the “First Sergeant P. Andrew McKenna Jr. Post Office.” Sergeant McKenna served in the U.S. Army for 17 years, during which time he completed five tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. He was killed in August 2015 while defending Camp Integrity from a Taliban attack.

 

Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) introduced H.R.4685 last December. The bill now awaits further consideration in the U.S. Senate. Congressman Cicilline’s spoke on the House floor a few minutes ago before the House passed H.R.4685. His remarks can be viewed by clicking here. The full text of his statement is embedded below.

 

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David N. Cicilline

H.R.4685

Remarks As Delivered

March 5, 2018

 

I am honored to stand before you today to pay tribute to the life and service of a true American hero, First Sergeant Peter Andrew McKenna, by naming the Bristol Post Office in his honor.

 

A native of Bristol, Rhode Island, Sergeant McKenna dedicated seventeen years of his life to serve and protect our country in the United States Army.

 

Born in 1980 to his mother, Carol, and father, Peter, Sergeant McKenna knew at the age of five years old that he wanted to be a soldier, and by the age of seven that he wanted to serve the nation as a Green Beret.

 

His family and close childhood friends recall him wearing camouflage patterned clothes almost every day.

 

Sergeant McKenna attended Mount Hope High School in Bristol, graduating in the spring of 1998.

 

Upon graduation, he immediately enlisted in the Army as an Infantryman. After just three years, he went to selection for the Green Berets.

 

He completed the grueling Special Forces Qualification Course in 2003, achieving his lifelong dream to be a part of the military’s most elite.

 

Sergeant McKenna was then assigned to the First Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group.

 

He went on to serve one tour of duty in Iraq and five more tours in Afghanistan.

 

During his first tour in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005, First Sergeant McKenna was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his tremendous courage under fierce enemy fire during a mission that resulted in the death of a senior Taliban official.

 

He would then go on to earn eighteen military awards including the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal.

 

First Sergeant McKenna is remembered at each of his duty stations for his intense work ethic, strong attention to detail, commitment to excellence, quick sense of humor, and infectious smile.

 

To this day, former team leaders and fellow servicemembers praise his motivation, leadership, and ability to bring out the best in the people around him.

 

Of the countless stories I could tell that exemplify these values in Sergeant McKenna, there is one that stands out.

 

In 2011, Master Sergeant Chris Corbin, a fellow Green Beret, was forced to undergo a double amputation on both legs after stepping on a hidden IED in Afghanistan.

 

During a months-long recovery process at Walter Reed Medical Hospital, First Sergeant McKenna would make the five-hour drive from Fort Bragg, located in North Carolina, to visit Master Sergeant Corbin, sometimes spending multiple days or even weeks at his bedside.

 

Master Sergeant Corbin would later go on to credit Sergeant McKenna’s reliability and motivation for getting him through his recovery.

 

This same selfless devotion to his fellow service members was of course not a first for Sergeant McKenna, and it would not be his last in a decorated life that was ended far too soon.

 

He was stationed at Camp Integrity in Kabul, Afghanistan in August 2015, when Taliban soldiers exploded a car bomb outside the gates of the compound in the middle of the night.

 

Four heavily armed insurgents opened fire on security contractors guarding the Special Forces complex, killing eight guards and breaching the facility.

 

Sergeant McKenna was messaging with his mother at the time, and her last message to her son went unanswered.

 

After hearing an explosion and gun shots, he immediately grabbed his weapon, and proceeded to engage the enemy alongside fellow Green Beret, Master Sergeant George Vera.

 

During the ensuing fight, First Sergeant McKenna lost his life and Master Sergeant Vera suffered critical wounds to his spine, kidney, liver, and leg.

 

Their decision to charge into the fight without hesitation and regard for their own safety likely prevented the deaths of many soldiers stationed at the base.

 

First Sergeant McKenna’s bravery and his ultimate sacrifice allowed supporting personnel to eliminate the Taliban attack, and secure the complex.

 

Sergeant McKenna was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for Valor in Combat, the nation’s third highest decoration for valor, for his courageous and lifesaving actions.

 

He was fearless. He was heroic. He represented the very highest examples of service, duty and sacrifice throughout his career and on this fateful day.

 

However, in the words of his friend, Master Sergeant Corbin, “That’s just Drew. There’s dozens of times he’s done stuff like that.”

 

First Sergeant McKenna was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bristol next to his brother, Patrick, who passed away in 2005.

 

He is survived by his mother and father, who I had the honor of hosting for President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union Address.

 

The First Sergeant P. Andrew McKenna, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, set up in his memory, awards $6,000 in scholarships every year to Rhode Island high school students planning to attend college or serve in the Armed Forces.

 

Andrew McKenna was a true American hero who embodied the very best of Rhode Island values.

 

His patriotism, loyalty, and sense of shared purpose were reflections of his strong character and the values he learned growing up in Bristol.

 

I consider myself fortunate to have met Sergeant McKenna in 2015 at the Bristol Fourth of July Parade, and for my continued relationship with his wonderful family.

 

I am proud to lead the effort here in Congress to honor Sergeant McKenna’s legacy that means so much to his family, his friends, the town of Bristol, and the State of Rhode Island.

 

I would like to extend my gratitude to Chairman Gowdy and Ranking Member Cummings for their support of this bill, as well as my good friend and cosponsor of this bill, Congressman Jim Langevin.

 

With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their courtesy and urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I yield back.

 

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