Family members of soldier travel to identify body - Brownsville Herald: Valley

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Family members of soldier travel to identify body

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Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2011 12:00 am

McALLEN — The family of a soldier from McAllen privately mourned his death Thursday, less than a month after his deployment to Afghanistan. He was killed Tuesday by enemy forces.

Two siblings of U.S. Army Spc. Kurt W. Kern, 24, traveled to an undisclosed location in Pennsylvania to identify his body, Richard Peña, commander of America’s Last Patrol, said.

Kern’s family requested privacy Thursday morning and referred members of the media to Peña, who is charged with organizing a flag-raising ceremony within the coming days at their home in the 500 block of Hackberry Avenue.

“Their request is for us to take care of all the media,” Peña said. “As soon as they get back, they’re going to give us a call and we’re going to find out what’s going to happen and when they’re going to bring the body back.”

Kern died alongside two servicemen from California and South Carolina when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device as they traveled through Pakita, Afghanistan, according to a news release from Fort Hood, where he was stationed while in the United States.

Kern, a graduate of McAllen Memorial High School, joined the armed forces in September 2009 as a military police officer after a tight financial situation forced him to leave his culinary arts studies behind, friend Jake Honeycutt said Wednesday.

He was assigned to the 720th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, at Fort Hood in September and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in December, the news release stated.

Members of America’s Last Patrol, a group of local veterans that honors fallen soldiers, could be seen going in and out of Kern’s home Thursday morning.

“America’s Last Patrol likes to get involved every time something like this happens,” said Vietnam veteran Hector Mercado, who was accompanied by his wife. “We do flag-raising ceremonies, extend our condolences and offer our services for whatever they may need. That’s the least we can do for these soldiers.”

Mercado said he didn’t want anything to do with the military after he returned from war more 30 years ago, but time and a renewed sense of pride encouraged him to once again don his uniform.

“These people are going through a hard time,” he said. “It’s bad to lose your life far away from your family.”

Kern is the 37th Rio Grande Valley native killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since March 2003, according to Monitor archives.