Fallen soldier's infectious smile lingers in Wiesbaden
November 17, 2006
WIESBADEN, Germany — It’s almost as if his infectious smile and good graces reached across the Great Divide to touch his mentors one last time.
“He was such a good kid,” Sharon O’Donnell said. “The first thing you noticed about him was his great smile, and his personality matched it.”
The Defense Department announced this week that Army Sgt. Courtland Kennard died in Baghdad. As with so many casualties in this conflict, the 22-year-old military policeman and another soldier were done in by a roadside bomb.
Kennard served with the 410th Military Police Company, 720th MP Battalion, 89th MP Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas.
But in Europe, teachers and administrators at Gen. H.H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden didn’t know him as Sgt. Kennard. They knew him as Courtland, a 2002 high school graduate and a dependable, selfless, stand-up teen you could always, always count on.
“He wasn’t a starter, but he was our best defensive player,” said varsity basketball coach Jim Campbell. Kennard was “the consummate team player. He was not concerned with the highlight reel.”
“He was just a complete kid,” Campbell said.
On Thursday, in the Wiesbaden high school teacher’s lounge, a stuffed toy bear — sporting a Warrior varsity jacket — and a box of decorative stationery greeted teachers and administrators.
Teacher Maureen Flock said she was asking colleagues for any memories they may have of a student that so many of them held in high esteem. The bear and the notes were to be sent to the Kennard family in Mississippi, where he will be laid to rest Saturday.
“It’s a tremendous loss,” said O’Donnell, who knew Kennard when she was an assistant principal at H.H. Arnold. His death “really shook me up. It’s hard to believe.”
O’Donnell, now the principal of Mannheim American High School, spoke of Kennard’s upbeat personality, his work ethic, supportive family and that magic smile. And she sure wasn’t alone in her sentiments.
“It just went ear-to-ear,” she said. “You couldn’t help but smile when he smiled. It was infectious.”
Like O’Donnell, Susan Krummrei, a health and science teacher, was surprised that Kennard had joined the military. She described him as a gentle, sensitive and respectful young man. But Krummrei added that Kennard, the son of a soldier, also possessed a profound sense of duty and, like many of his contemporaries, was deeply affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Joining the military “was extremely noble and was very Courtland,” Krummrei said. “I’m sure [the attacks] really weighed heavily on him.”
She and others at school attributed his strength of character to his parents — his father, Douglas, and his mother, Darlene, who worked in the Wiesbaden school bus office. Kennard’s kid brother, Jamal, is said to carry himself in the same manner.
“He was a wonderful kid,” O’Donnell said.