Every day on her way to work, Allyson McKenna drives down Crescent Road, past CVS, Planet Fitness and Dunkin’ Donuts. That nondescript strip didn’t cause her much pause until Sunday, when the Town of Clifton Park named a small street that passes between those businesses after her brother, Capt. John J. McKenna IV, a former state trooper and Marine, who was killed in action Aug. 16, 2006, in Fallujah, Iraq.
A crowd gathered at the busy corner Sunday morning to honor the fallen war hero.
“We don’t try to keep John’s memory alive, we try to keep his spirit alive — his enthusiasm, his love of country and his love of his companions,” said McKenna’s father, John J. McKenna III of Clifton Park, who said he’s very proud of his son and the way he lived his life.
“I’m one of the few people I think in this world that can claim that they’re following in the footsteps of their son. It most often works the other way around,” he said.
Eight members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood solemnly on the street corner during the presentation, six holding American flags that flapped in the warm breeze.
Nearby stood the newly minted green street sign bearing the words “John J. McKenna IV Way.”
Phil Barrett, supervisor for the Town of Clifton Park, said that naming the street after McKenna was a very small token of the town’s appreciation for the sacrifices he made.
“When you look at what he did for our country, everything would be but a small token,” he added.
Born March 17, 1976, McKenna attended high school in Brooklyn and college at Binghamton University. In 1998 he accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant. He was assigned to the Second Marine Air Wing, where he served tours in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He also served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
McKenna left active duty in 2003 to pursue a career with the New York State Police. He was stationed in Saratoga and Clifton Park with Troop G before receiving permanent assignment to the Kingston Barracks in Troop F.
Compelled to continue serving his country, he joined Company F, Second Battalion, 25th Marines in Albany and was assigned to be an infantry platoon commander. While serving in that position in Iraq, he was killed by sniper fire while trying to assist an injured Marine.
Victor Corniel of Queens, a team leader in McKenna’s platoon, traveled from downstate to be present at Sunday’s ceremony.
“One thing about John, you could definitely tell he cared about his Marines, probably above anything else,” he said.
Bill Schaaf, assistant state captain with the Patriot Guard Riders of New York, came to the event to support a fellow veteran. The Patriot Guard is a group of motorcycle riders that come together to show support to U.S. service members, veterans and their families.
“This was an individual who felt a strong calling to serve his country and in doing so, he made the ultimate sacrifice, not only for his country, but for his fellow Marines.”
The road that now bears Mc-Kenna’s name has been in existence for several years. Officials decided to name it to improve 911 service.
“We talked about it internally and we decided what an honor it would be to name it after an American hero,” Barrett explained.
For McKenna’s sister Allyson, the road that now bears her brother’s name serves as a reminder of a commendable life journey.
“He had a life full of service. He went out and did things for people that not until after he was gone [did we find out] some of the little things and the big things he did for folks that meant so much. … You see that [sign] and in my mind I remember all the positive things he did when he was here and the things his memory continues to bring on, things like the Military Courtesy Room, things like the foundation we have,” she said.
The Capt. John J. McKenna IV Military Courtesy Room at the Albany International Airport provides a recreation and relaxation site for service members and their families. It opened in March 2010.
“Over 9,000 have come through that little room,” noted McKenna’s father, John.
According to Allyson, the John J. McKenna IV Foundation helps to fund the courtesy room, supports injured Marines and also provides scholarships to high school students at Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School in Brooklyn, McKenna’s alma mater.