NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — For the McKennas, Memorial Day weekend is always difficult.
“It never gets easier,” Carol McKenna, mother of the late First Sergeant P. Andrew McKenna said.
The Bristol native was killed during an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2015.
“Andrew was the last Rhode Islander killed in Afghanistan,” his mother said.
The McKennas were at Fort Adams State Park Friday to participate in a ceremony honoring Rhode Island’s Gold Star Families.
The Boots on the Ground display features more than 7,000 pairs of combat boots adorned with American flags and name placards. It honors the men and women who lost their lives in the Global War on Terror.
Of those boots, 29 represent Rhode Islanders who paid the ultimate sacrifice, including McKenna.
Among those in attendance were Gov. Dan McKee, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Attorney General Peter Neronha and Rep. David Cicilline.
Cicilline escorted the McKennas as they placed Andrew’s pair of boots on the ground.
While these events are always hard for them, Carol McKenna said they’re also another way to keep her son’s memory alive.
“Route 114 is named after him,” she said. “The post office in Bristol is named after him … and one of our local breweries just released two beers named for [him].”
As Memorial Day approaches, she has one message for Rhode Islanders.
“Most people see it as the gateway to the summer for cookouts and barbeques and things like that, and I don’t begrudge them for any of that,” she said. “But if they could just, for one minute, remember all of our military who have died through all the wars to keep them safe … that’s why they can do these things.”
The Boots on the Ground memorial will be on display all weekend from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., as well as on Memorial Day itself from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.