Emsworth Marine's memory being kept alive with 5K race

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Seven years after Patrick Kenny was killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq, his three sisters are still finding ways to make sure their Marine brother isn't just a statistic of war.

"My goal is to never let my brother's name be forgotten," said Katy Kenny, one of Kenny's sisters.

Ms. Kenny, 26, who also served as a Marine, has been planning a 5K in her brother's honor for the past nine months. She reached out to family, old high school friends and even U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, who she said agreed to fund the cost of medals for the race.

By Friday afternoon, 429 people had registered for today's race, which will loop through Ben Avon and Emsworth, the neighborhood where Kenny and his sisters grew up.

"We used to joke that we'd have more volunteers than racers," Ms. Kenny said, adding that with same-day registration she expects more than 500 participants.

She said all proceeds will go to the Semper Fi Fund, an organization that offers financial relief to injured or critically ill military personnel and their families.

The Semper Fi Fund has given 1,935 grants to 447 Pennsylvania service members, totaling about $2.5 million, according to spokesman Kirt Rebello.

A sense of solemnity filled the voices of Maggie Oliver and Molly Kolarik, Patrick's other two sisters, when they described the events leading up to their brother's death.

A graduate of Avonworth High School, Patrick would become a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, following in the footsteps of his grandfathers.

Ms. Kolarik, 29, recalled a conversation before he deployed to Iraq for the second time: "He said, 'I have a pretty healed wound here and now they're ripping it off of me.' He just knew enough that it wasn't good -- it wasn't good that he was going back."

He deployed in July 2005 and in early October, he was killed in the Al Anbar province by an improvised explosive device. He was 20 years old.

Their father answered the door in the wee hours one Friday morning and instantly knew the news would be devastating, Ms. Kenny said. "He looked at me and he just said, 'Are you ready to get your mom?' "

To the marines assigned to notify the family, he said: " 'Well guys, you've had a really hard night. Why don't you come in and have a cup of coffee,' " according to Ms. Kenny.

One of the biggest struggles, according to the sisters, was getting other people to understand their loss.

"It aged all of us. No one could relate to us," said Ms. Oliver, the oldest sister.

Ms. Kenny said her brother enjoyed reading about the Civil War and could talk to anyone about anything, even if he was making it up as he went.

"I can honestly say without any doubt that my brother was probably one of the most popular kids in our neighborhood," Ms. Kolarik said. "He was infectious."

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Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman.


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