Heavy hearts were the norm as residents of the Riverside School District learned that a new brick would be added posthumously to honor a man in its Veterans’ Wall of Honor. Kyle McKee, Class of 2003, was killed in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt during a peace-keeping operation on Nov. 12, 2020.
Kyle, 35, had been a staff sergeant and crewman on board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it encountered mechanical problems that took the lives of four other Americans, a Frenchman and a Czech service member. All were part of the Army’s Multinational Force and Observers mission, whose assignment has been to monitor the effectiveness of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
About 700 soldiers stationed in Egypt have been assisting in actions against fighters of the Islamic State. Kyle had previous Army experience as a crew chief in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea. Originally from LeRoy, he most recently lived in Painesville with his wife Nikki, who was pregnant with a baby girl, and their two sons.
Kyle had earned prestigious Army honors, including nine medals, three ribbons and four badges. All those honors attest to his loyalty to his country. Upon graduation from RHS, he said, “The military is ‘my place’.” The McKee family represents strong patriotism since Kyle’s older brother Shane also served in the military.
Two faculty members in the district knew Kyle well and spoke highly of him. His physical education teacher, Becky Bartholomew, referred to him as “unforgettable” because of his helpfulness to others, kind heart, twinkling eyes, dedication to hard work, and politeness.
Scott Blank, the district’s head wrestling coach from 1998 to 2014, praised Kyle’s character by calling him quiet, hard-working and dedicated.
Eric Lakia, an alumni association trustee, was a friend and classmate of Kyle’s and said that he was a loving, enjoyable person to be around. In sports he worked to be the best he could be and sacrificed himself for others. Eric commented that Kyle came from a family of hard-working people, adding that as a sophomore when the 9/11 attack occurred, Kyle was deeply affected and even more determined to join the military, which he did right after graduation.
Riverside’s Alumni Association, including its board of trustees and entire membership, must surely be proud of its alumnus military hero as well as all before him. Many members have lived double the number of years that Kyle did and have seen, directly or indirectly, the tragedies of war.
Many alumni were born before or during World War II and knew its aftermath. Then they struggled through the casualties accrued during the Korean War and agonized over the 17 years our troops spent in Vietnam. Many who had chosen education as their careers during those times lost high school classmates, college friends and then their former students in wars.
Of course, the casualties didn’t end; in one form or the other, wars in the Middle East have culminated in our longest involvement to date, and these incursions have continued. If there is anything such as “a small war,” many older people have witnessed no totally peaceful day in the world ever.
Riverside has a lengthy history of recognizing its community’s service men and women. Dr. Mary Porter and her art students in the early 90s designed and created a unique memorial, which is explained in a separate article in this Log. It is dedicated to military personnel who have died as a result of various non-combat missions.
Long after Kyle McKee’s brick has been installed in the new Veterans’ Wall, he will be remembered as a person who became the “best he could be” – a true champion who gave his life fighting against that ignorant thing in the human heart that is responsible for wars.
For more reading about Kyle McKee:
Fox-8 news story
WIOI 19 News news story