OSWEGO, NY – Hundreds of people, young and old, lined both sides of East First Street to welcome Spc. Kyle Rookey home on Tuesday night.
The 23-year-old Oswego native died Sept. 2 in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the result of “a non-combat related incident.”
The queue stretched from Utica Street north to Bridge Street, many waved American flags or carried posters with messages to Kyle and his family. Several wiped away tears.
A large contingent of law enforcement vehicles and dozens of members of The Patriot Guard Riders of New York riding motorcycles escorted the hearse bearing the soldier’s body from the Oswego County Airport to the funeral home.
Commander John Young of VFW Post 587 in Fulton was one of the many veterans that mingled with active servicemen in the crowd.
“We’re here to support all the troops, and especially our fallen brother,” he said. “This is happening way too often. Our hearts go out to his family.”
“It’s important to come out and support one of our members,” said Scott Ciesla of the OHS Marching Buccaneers. “A lot of people remember Kyle.”
Several members of the band stood solemnly on the side of the street near Oswego’s Peace Garden
“We’re just here to show our respects,” said Jeff McCrobie, Oswego fire chief. “This is the shift working now as well as some off duty personnel. We’re here to pay our respects to Kyle and support his family.”
A fire truck was parked in the Tim Horton’s parking lot; a huge American Flag affixed to its ladder flew about the street.
Sandy Murphy held a large American Flag as she waited for the procession to arrive.
“For the amount of people that Oswego has, I think (the crowd) could be bigger,” she said. “It’s still a little early.”
Jessica Blodgett recalled Kyle as being “his own person.”
She and Kyle worked together in OHS on the theater tech crew.
“That’s for sure. He would do anything to make somebody laugh. He was really crazy – in a good way, a good way! It’s hard to really define him. He was definitely his own person,” she said.
“We were all very close friends with Kyle,” Caitlyn Hanlon said. “I graduated with him. He was one of my best friends. We had been in the same class together since preschool. We were always hanging out together, so it’s rough, it’s very rough.”
Their class has seen more than its share of tragedies, she added.
“This makes eight that we’ve lost from our class. And it’s sad to think that we’re not even 25 years old yet. So it’s rough on everybody,” Caitlyn said. “But it bonds us together. It makes us closer, thankful for what we’ve got and who we’ve got in our lives.”
The Rookey family asked that the Patriot Guard Riders of New York form a flag line for his calling hours Wednesday.
The Patriot Guard Riders of New York is a group of patriots from across the state that have one thing in common besides motorcycles – an unwavering respect for America’s freedom and security.
Their main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission has two basic objectives.
1. Show sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protester or group of protesters.
Calling hours will be held Wednesday 4-8 p.m. at the Dain-Cullinan Funeral Home.
Funeral services will be private at the convenience of the family.
Burial with full military honors will be in St. Paul’s Cemetery.
On behalf of the family, the Oswego High School Class of 1981 has started a fund in memory of Kyle to benefit the music and theatre departments at Oswego High School.
Donations may be sent to Oswego City School District, Attn: Treasurer, 120 E. First St., Oswego, NY 13126.
Donations to a college fund for Kyle’s daughter may be made payable to Flora Kyleigh Rookey in care of Carol Sue Akers 112 Niagara St., Oswego, NY 13126.